Category Warbirds

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Trainer; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 10 inches; length, 38 feet, 6 inches; height, 14 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 7,374 pounds; gross, 17,637 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,976-pound thrust SNECMA/Turbomeca Larzac turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 621 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,630 feet; range, 764 miles Armament: none, or up to 5,511 pounds of bombs, rockets, or gunpods Service dates: 1978-


he Alphajet was a Franco-German effort to build a modern jet trainer easily adapted to ground-at­tack missions. The design functioned well and con­tinues to serve with the air forces of several nations.

By 1968 the rising expense associated with mod­ern military aircraft induced two former enemies, France and Germany, to undertake joint development of an advanced trainer/light strike aircraft for their re­spective air forces. The new craft was intended to re­place a host of aging Fouga Magisters, Lockheed T- 33s, and Fiat G 91s. Two highly respected firms, Dassault and Dornier, then spent several years work­ing out the final details before developing a prototype. The first Alphajet flew in 1975 as a modern shoulder­wing jet seating two crew members under a lengthy canopy. The rear seat is also staggered above the front one to afford instructors better forward vision. The wings and tail surfaces are all highly swept, and the final product compact yet attractive. The craft also possesses twin engines—a Luftwaffe requirement re­sulting from its unsavory experience with single-en­
gine Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. Given their dual function, the French and German versions differ widely as to avionics. The French use them as dedi­cated advanced trainers with less powerful systems. The Germans, meanwhile, fly theirs with the backseat removed and mount highly sophisticated radar, target­ing, and communications equipment. Curiously, either version of the Alphajet can be rigged for ground at­tack with the addition of weapons pods and bombs. A total of 600 were built by 1982.

This high-performance package naturally aroused the interest of poorer nations, which sought increased firepower at bargain prices. Belgium, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Qatar, Cameroon, and Togo all have purchased the diminu­tive craft and arrayed them with various weapons arrangements. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany decided to mothball its fleet of Alphajets and has since sold 80 refurbished machines to Portu­gal. France, meanwhile, continues to upgrade its trainers, calling the new machines Lanciers.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 28 feet, 3 inches; length, 25 feet, 2 inches; height, 9 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 943 pounds; gross, 1,441 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine

Performance: maximum speed, 93 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,000 feet; range, 250 miles

Armament: 1 x.303-inch machine gun

Service dates: 1916-1917


he fragile-looking DH 2 was the Royal Flying Corps’s first true fighter plane. Tough and ma­neuverable, its appearance signified the end of Ger­many’s “Fokker scourge.”

The DH 2 single-seat fighter craft evolved from Geoffrey de Havilland’s earlier DH 1 two-seat recon­naissance craft in 1915. Like its predecessor, the pilot sat in a central nacelle well forward of the two – bay wings, enjoying unrestricted frontal vision. The rotary pusher engine was immediately to his rear. The wings were conventional wood and canvas af­fairs, and four tail booms jutted rearward and at­tached to a vee-shaped structure fastening the tail. De Havilland opted for a pusher design because the British still lacked synchronization technology that permitted firing machine guns through a propeller arc. Therefore, the DH 2 possessed a single drum – fed Lewis machine gun mounted in the pilot’s na­celle. In flight the craft flew only moderately fast, but it climbed well and was completely acrobatic.

The first DH 2s were deployed to France in January 1916 with No. 24 Squadron—the first purely
conceived fighter unit ever operated by the Royal Flying Corps. Prior to this, British formations were mixed bags of various kinds of aircraft. Air superi­ority at this time had passed completely into Ger­man hands because of the notorious, machine gun-armed Fokker Eindekker. But the DH 2s, de­spite their unconventional appearance, proved first – class dogfighters and swept the sky of German op­position. On one occasion, a single pusher flown by Major L. W.B. Rees mistakenly joined what he thought were 10 British bombers returning from a raid. They turned out to be German, and in the en­suing scrape his DH 2 dispatched two of the enemy and scattered the rest. Rees subsequently received the Victoria Cross.

In the fall of 1916 the first Albatros D Is and D Ils appeared, and de Havilland’s little pushers be­came completely outclassed. They sustained heavy losses before withdrawing from frontline service in

1917. Nonetheless, the DH 2 had made its mark as Britain’s first successful fighter.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 42 feet, 5 inches; length, 30 feet, 8 inches; height, 11 feet Weights: empty, 2,300 pounds; gross, 3,472 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 375-horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 136 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 420 miles Armament: up to 4 x.303-inch machine guns; 460 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1932


he DH 4 was the first British aircraft specifically designed for daylight bombing and among the best of its kind in World War I. It was built in even greater numbers by the United States and enjoyed considerable longevity there.

The DH 4 was designed in response to a 1916 Air Ministry specification for a new daylight-bomb­ing aircraft, the first acquired by the Royal Flying Corps. A prototype was flown in August of that year and proved entirely successful. The DH 4 was a stan­dard two-bay biplane constructed of wood and fab­ric. The fuselage consisted of two complete halves bolted together, with the forward half covered in plywood for greater strength. Another distinguish­ing feature was the widely spaced cockpits, between which sat a large fuel tank. Such placement facili­tated better views for the pilot and gunner but rather hindered close cooperation. It was also fitted with dual flight controls for both crew members. The DH 4 was originally supposed to be powered by the splendid Rolls-Royce Eagle engine but they
proved unavailable, so several other power plants were employed.

In service the DH 4 was a superb airplane. Fully loaded, it was as fast as most fighters and could absorb considerable damage. Great numbers were employed by both the Royal Flying Corps and its naval equivalent, and it enjoyed a wide-ranging career from France to Palestine. As such, DH 4s were successfully employed in bombing, reconnais­sance, and antisubmarine patrols. In August 1918 a Royal Navy DH 4 even managed to shoot down a Zeppelin L 70. The DH 4 was also the only British warplane to be manufactured in great numbers by the United States; the U. S.-built machines were pow­ered by the famous Liberty in-line engine. By 1918 DH 4s equipped no less that 11 American and nine Royal Air Force squadrons. The British, who built 1,449 examples, discarded them after the war, but the Americans went on to construct an additional 4,686 machines. They underwent constant modifica­tions and remained in service until 1932.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 11 inches; length, 30 feet, 3 inches; height, 11 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 2,800 pounds; gross, 4,645 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 400-horsepower Packard Liberty liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 123 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,750 feet; range, 600 miles Armament: 3 x.303-inch machine guns; 660 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1918-1931


he original DH 9, which suffered from a poor en­gine, had been foisted upon the Royal Flying Corps through governmental bureaucracy and proved a disaster. Fortunately, the much improved DH 9a became a splendid bomber it its own right and subsequently accrued a distinguished service record.

By 1917 the rising tempo of German raids against England forced the British High Command to increase its own bomber force for retaliatory pur­poses. The government then decided to replace the excellent DH 4 with an updated version, christened the DH 9. This new machine utilized the same wing and empennage as the DH 4, but it enjoyed closer cockpits and a new—and theoretically more power­ful—BHP engine. However, in service the BHP was underpowered and completely unreliable, making the DH 9’s performance inferior to the craft it was meant to replace. Also, their low-ceiling perfor­mance subjected them to attacks by both fighters and antiaircraft batteries; in time losses grew pro­hibitive. Despite appeals from General Hugh Tren-
chard to get rid of the DH 9 altogether, the govern­ment had other priorities, and full-scale production was maintained. A total of 4,000 were acquired.

In view of the DH 9’s poor performance, a new version, the DH 9a, was developed. This appeared very similar to the old craft, although it employed greater wingspan and a stronger fuselage. Shortages of the splendid Rolls-Royce Eagle engine forced it to employ the 400-horsepower Liberty engine, built in the United States. The result of coupling a good en­gine to a fine airframe was an excellent aircraft that went by the sobriquet of “Nine-ack.” DH 9as fought with distinction toward the end of World War I and remained in production after the Armistice. No less than 2,500 were built during the postwar period, and they continued in frontline service until 1931. Nine – acks were best remembered for the policing role they fulfilled across the British Empire, particularly along the North-West Frontier of India. Their reli­able performance was greatly appreciated by crews, because crash-landing usually meant death at the hands of hostile tribesmen.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Heavy Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 65 feet, 6 inches; length, 39 feet, 7 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 5,585 pounds; gross, 9,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 400-horsepower Packard Liberty liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 112 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,000 feet; range, 600 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,280 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1918-1922


he jut-jawed DH 10 was one of the finest bomber designs of World War I, but it arrived too late for combat. It is best remembered as a postwar mail carrier that pioneered vital air routes in Europe, Egypt, and India.

In 1916 Geoffrey de Havilland designed a twin – engine pusher-type bomber known informally as the DH 3. It was a proficient design, and the Air Ministry placed an order for 50 machines. When production was canceled before the first example could be built, the project was summarily shelved until 1917. That year a new specification for heavy bombers was circulated, and de Havilland decided to upgrade his previous design. The resulting craft was named the DH 10, a three-seat, three-bay biplane pusher. It was distinct in that the fuselage was slung low, par­tially covered in plywood, and it employed a wide – track undercarriage. An ongoing shortage of Rolls – Royce engines prompted switching to the reliable American Liberty model, which were ultimately
mounted in tractor position. As a bomber the DH 10 hoisted twice the bomb load of the DH 9a at higher speed and altitude. In the summer of 1918 a contract for 1,275 machines was placed.

The DH 10 was an excellent bomber for its day, strongly built and easy to fly. Had the war con­tinued it would have become very numerous, but only eight had arrived in France by the time of the Armistice. Production then ceased at 223 machines, which were dispersed among various squadrons in Europe, Africa, and India. The DH 10 spent the rest of its days as a utility craft, most notably as a mail carrier. In 1919 the machines of No. 120 Squadron commenced the first night service between Hawkinge, England, and Cologne, Germany. Similar work was performed by DH 10s of No. 216 Squadron along the Cairo-to-Baghdad route. It fi­nally had an opportunity to drop bombs in 1920-1922, during a revolt of rebel tribesmen along India’s North-West Frontier.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 4 inches; length, 23 feet, 11 inches; height, 8 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 1,200 pounds; gross, 1,825 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 120-horsepower DH Gypsy liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,600 feet; range, 300 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1932-1947


he ubiquitous Tiger Moth was the last biplane trainer of the Royal Air Force and among the most numerous. During World War II it trained thou­sands of British and Commonwealth pilots from around the globe.

The great commercial and acrobatic success of de Havilland’s Moth aircraft in the late 1920s caused military circles to consider its adoption as a trainer. Around that time the RAF began employing the pop­ular DH 60T Gypsy Moth variant, which had been modified to allow pilots easier escape from the front cockpit while wearing a parachute. This meant stag­gering the top wing forward and providing it with several degrees of sweep. After several more refine­ments, it was introduced into the service as the DH 82 Tiger Moth, quite possibly the greatest biplane trainer of all time. This fabric-covered, compact little craft had single-bay wings and an inverted engine to improve the frontal view. As airplanes, Tiger Moths were gentle and forgiving—perfect for training inex­perienced pilots. However, they were also strong,
completely acrobatic, and could be literally thrown around the sky with abandon. A second model, the DH 82A Tiger Moth II, mounted a canvas hood over the rear cockpit to teach instrument flying.

By the advent of World War II in 1939, 1,611 Tiger Moths were in use at 28 Elementary Flying Schools across Britain. During the war the number of machines increased exponentially, with more than 8,000 being manufactured in England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Literally thousands of Commonwealth pilots took the first step toward winning their wings by strapping themselves into Tiger Moths! During the war, several DH 82s were impressed into service as communications aircraft and flying ambulances. The threatened invasion of England in 1940 prompted others to be fitted with bomb racks. A radio-controlled version, the Queen Bee, also served as a flying drone for aerial gunnery. After the war, Tiger Moths remained frontline train­ers until 1947. Hundreds still fly today in private hands, and they remain beloved machines.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber; Fighter; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 54 feet, 2 inches; length, 41 feet, 6 inches; height, 15 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 16,631 pounds; gross, 25,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,710-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin 76 liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 425 miles per hour; ceiling, 36,000 feet; range, 3,500 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; 4 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 4,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1941-1955


ailed as the “Wooden Wonder,” the Mosquito was among the most versatile and proficient warplanes of World War II. It saw service in a count­less variety of roles and enjoyed the lowest loss rate of any Royal Air Force aircraft.

In 1938 the de Havilland company proposed a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft flown by only two men. The new craft would be totally unarmed, relying solely upon speed for survival. Moreover, to de-emphasize use of strategic resources like metal, de Havilland wanted the plane entirely made from wood. Understandably, officials at the Air Ministry simply scoffed at the proposal. The company nonetheless proceeded to construct several proto­types that first flew in 1940. The country was at war with Germany then, and severely hard-pressed, but ministry officials remained hostile to the notion of wooden warplanes. Their minds completely changed when the first Mosquitos demonstrated speeds and maneuverability usually associated with single-engine fighters. The aircraft was then rushed into production and flew its first daylight reconnais­
sance mission over Paris in 1941. When the “Mossies” easily outpaced pursuing German fight­ers, a legend was born.

During the next four years, de Havilland pro­duced great quantities of Mosquitos in a bewildering variety of types. They capably performed several roles with distinction: reconnaissance, night fighter, day fighter, and light bomber. Fast and almost un­stoppable, Mosquitos were also famous for their pinpoint accurate bombing raids. In January 1943 they interrupted a speech given by Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goring—then returned later that day to drop bombs on a rally given by propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. Lightning raids against Gestapo headquarters in The Hague and Copenhagen were also a specialty. Mosquitos served in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, suffering the lowest loss rate of any British aircraft. After the war they remained the fastest machines in RAF Bomber Com­mand inventory until overtaken by Canberra jet bombers in 1951. A total of 7,781 Mosquitos were built—truly one of the world’s greatest warplanes.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet; length, 30 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 7,283 pounds; gross, 12,390 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 3,350-pound thrust de Havilland Goblin turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 548 miles per hour; ceiling, 42,800 feet; range, 1,220 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1946-1990


he diminutive Vampire was England’s second jet fighter and spawned a large number of subtypes. It enjoyed a lengthy career and was exported to no less than 25 nations.

The British Air Ministry issued Specification

E. 6/41 in 1941 to obtain a jet fighter built around a single de Havilland Goblin centrifugal-flow turbojet. The relatively low thrust of this early engine virtually dictated the design because of the necessity to keep the tailpipe as short as possible. De Havilland re­sponded with a unique twin-boomed approach. The fuselage was a bulbous pod housing the pilot, engine, nosewheel, and armament. The pilot sat in a cockpit close to the nose and under a bubble canopy that af­forded excellent vision. The all-metal wing was mid­mounted and affixed by twin booms extending rear­ward, themselves joined by a single stabilizer. The prototype first flew in September 1943, with Geoffrey de Havilland Jr. at the controls. He reported excel­lent flight characteristics, even at breathtaking
speeds of 500 miles per hour. In 1946 the aircraft en­tered the service as the DH 100 Vampire (the original designation was Spider Crab). Subsequent modifica­tions yielded the Mk III, which had larger fuel tanks and a redesigned tail. However, it was not until 1949 that the major production version, the FB Mk 5, ar­rived. It featured clipped wings, longer undercar­riage, and the ability to carry rockets and bombs.

The Vampire exhibited such docile handling in flight that it was an ideal trainer. It was also ex­ported around the world and saw extensive service with 25 air forces. Switzerland operated its Vam­pires with little interruption until 1991. On Decem­ber 3, 1945, a Royal Navy Sea Vampire also became the first pure jet to operate off a carrier deck. This version, naturally, was stressed for catapulting and used an arrester hook. One final model, the NF Mk 10, was a two-seat night fighter version with radar. The total number of Vampires manufactured was around 2,000. It was a classic early jet design.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 50 feet; length, 55 feet, 7 inches; height, 10 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 22,000; gross, 36,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 11,250-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 650 miles per hour; ceiling, 48,000 feet; range, 600 miles Armament: 4 x Firestreak, Red Top, or Bullpup missiles Service dates: 1959-1972


he formidable Sea Vixen compiled a litany of firsts for the Fleet Air Arm. It was the Royal Navy’s first all-weather interceptor, the first de­signed as an integrated weapons system, and the first armed solely with missiles.

In 1946 the British Admiralty issued Specifica­tion N.40/46, later upgraded to N.14/49, which insti­gated development of a twin-engine radar-equipped jet fighter. De Havilland, which had pioneered twin – boomed jet fighters, advanced the DH 110 design, but initially the navy rejected it in favor of the lower – powered Sea Venom. When the Royal Air Force also passed on it for what ultimately become the Gloster Javelin, the Fleet Air Arm took a second look and decided the craft was worth pursuing after all. The prototype debuted in 1951 as a most impressive war­plane. The DH 110 was a large machine with the crew compartment and twin engines mounted within a central, streamlined pod. The twin booms streamed back from the highly swept wing and were
joined farther aft by a single control surface. The pilot and radar operator sat side by side, but only the pilot was provided with a canopy, offset to the left. The DH 110 was a powerful flier, and during early testing it became the first British aircraft to break the sound barrier in a dive. When the proto­type subsequently broke up in flight, development halted and several years of bureaucratic indecision ensued. Consequently, the first FAW.1 Sea Vixens did not reach the fleet until 1959.

In service the Sea Vixen proved itself a power­ful addition to the fleet, both as an interceptor and a ground-attack plane (mounting U. S.-made Bullpup guided missiles). By 1961 a new version, the FAW.2, appeared, featuring revised booms extending over the front wing to carry additional fuel. This model also was the first navy fighter to dispense with can­nons entirely in favor of four Firestreak or Red Top missiles. A total of 148 Sea Vixens were built, with the last retiring in 1972.

. Dassault/Dornier Alphajet

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber; Night Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 41 feet, 8 inches; length, 33 feet; height, 6 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 8,100 pounds; gross, 15,310 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 4,850-pound thrust de Havilland Ghost turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 640 miles per hour; ceiling, 45,000 feet; range, 1,075 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs and rockets

Service dates: 1952-1990


he Venom was a successor to the earlier Vam – л. pire, but not nearly as popular. It nonetheless filled a critical niche in several areas until more ad­vanced machines could be deployed.

Continuing refinement of the de Havilland Goblin engine resulted in a totally new version, the Ghost, which featured 50 percent more thrust. This power plant was fitted into a heavily redesigned DH 100 Vampire in 1949, and the resulting hybrid gained a new designation as the DH 112 Venom. It bore striking similarity to its forebear, but it enjoyed the advantage of a wholly redesigned, thinner wing of broader chord. Consequently, the Venom possessed much higher performance than the Vampire. The Royal Air Force immediately ordered the type into production, and it became operational in 1952. The Venom was employed initially as a fighter-bomber, and the FB.1s and FB.4s could carry useful pay­loads. Both France and Switzerland obtained license to manufacture the craft domestically; the Swiss
models flew regularly in frontline service up to 1990. Two night-fighter versions, the NF.2 and NF.3 were also developed that sat a crew of two side by side. These superceded the Vampire NF 10s after 1953 and rendered useful service until being replaced by Gloster Javelins in 1957.

The Fleet Air Arm was naturally interested in such good performance, and in 1954 it accepted de­liveries of the Sea Venom FAW. These were the Royal Navy’s first all-weather interceptor and fea­tured arrester hooks, folding wings, and other naval equipment. They also sat a crew of two in side-by­side configuration. In 1956 Sea Venoms were at the forefront of the Anglo-French intervention during the Suez Crisis, making large-scale ground attacks in support of army units. Two years later Sea Venoms pioneered the use of Firestreak guided missiles as standard Fleet Air Arm armament. They served well until the arrival of the de Havilland DH 110 Sea Vixen in 1959. Around 500 of all types were built.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 10 inches; length, 26 feet, 7 inches; height, 8 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 1,521 pounds; gross, 2,072 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 265-horsepower SPA liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 140 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 450 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns

Service dates: 1918-1929


he handsome Ansaldo craft conducted some of the longest and most impressive reconnaissance flights of World War I. They continued this tradition after the war and established many long-distance records.

In 1916 the Ansaldo firm began constructing a new high-performance fighter craft as a private com­pany venture. It fell upon Umberto Savoia and Rodolfo Verduzio to design the prototype, which flew in March 1917. The SVA 4 was a good-looking biplane that employed “W”-shaped Warren struts along the wings, thus dispensing with the need for bracing wires. The wings themselves were of slightly unequal length, with the top possessing rak­ish ailerons and the bottom several degrees of dihe­dral. The slender fuselage was plywood-covered and tapered to a point past the cockpit, affording the pilot excellent rearward vision. Flight trials revealed that the SVA 4 possessed good performance, but it was too stable for fighter tactics. It therefore en­tered production as a reconnaissance craft and, in
slightly modified form, joined the service in March 1918 as the SVA 5 Primo.

The single-seat Ansaldo designs accumulated a brilliant wartime career and were among the best air­craft of their class in the world. This fact was borne out by the many dangerous long-range reconnaissance missions seemingly performed with ease. On May 21, 1918, a pair of Primos crossed the Alps at high altitude, successfully photographed military installations at Friedrichshafen, Germany, and completed a flight of 435 miles. But the most famous Ansaldo mission hap­pened on August 9, 1918, when six modified aircraft, accompanied by the poet Gabrielle di Annunzio, flew 300 miles to Vienna, dropped leaflets for half an hour, and returned after a 620-mile sojourn. Many other such flights were recorded.

The SVA 5s remained in service long after the Armistice. In 1920 five set out on an across-the – world venture from Rome to Tokyo, covering 11,250 miles in 109 flying hours. Production concluded in 1927, following a run of 2,000 machines.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Liaison; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 59 feet, 8 inches; length, 42 feet, 6 inches; height, 13 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 7,605 pounds; gross, 12,125 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,000-horsepower Shvetsov Ash-621R radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 157 miles per hour; ceiling, 14,425 feet; range, 562 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1947-


he ubiquitous An 2 was built in greater numbers than any aircraft since World War II. Antiquated looks belie incredible ruggedness and adaptability, and it still serves in no less than 30 countries around the world.

Oleg Antonov, who spent most of his youth de­signing gliders, finally established his own aviation design bureau in 1947. From the onset his desire was to manufacture multipurpose aircraft capable of operating anywhere. His first design, the An 2, was originally intended as an agricultural airplane for the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. He deliberately chose a biplane because of the prodigious lifting qualities such machines pos­sess, as well as ease of handling at low altitude. The big An 2 is built entirely of metal, save for fabric – covered control surfaces, and is unique among bi­planes in that the fuselage completely fills in be­tween the two wings. The wings themselves are joined to each other by use of a single “I” strut and utilize such advanced devices as slotted trailing flaps and ailerons that automatically droop at low
speed. Consequently, An 2s display superb STOL (short takeoff and landing) characteristics and are also rugged and easily maintained. The Antonov fac­tory built “only” 5,000 An 2s in the Soviet Union be­fore production halted. However, the torch was then passed to Poland’s WSK-Mielec factory, which man­ufactured another 18,000. China has also built 1,500 for its own purposes. Total An 2 production, world­wide, is estimated in excess of 30,000! It remains the last mass-produced biplane.

This hulking aircraft was eventually employed by 30 air forces around the world and in a bewilder­ing variety of tasks. Most military establishments employ it as a transport, but it has since been adopted to crop-spraying, glider-tugging, navigation training, and parachute transport. It can also be fit­ted with skis to operate from snow. The Soviets recommenced production of An 2Ms in 1964, which featured bigger control surfaces and a variable-pitch propeller. Antonov’s homely prodigy remains one of the world’s great transportation aircraft. The NATO designation is COLT.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Transport; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 124 feet, 8 inches; length, 108 feet, 7 inches; height, 34 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 61,728 pounds; gross, 134,480 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 4,000-horsepower ZMBD AI-20K turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 482 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,465 feet; range, 3,542 miles

Armament: 2 x 23mm cannon

Service dates: 1960-


or many years, the An 12 constituted the back­bone of Soviet heavy airlift forces. It still func­tions today in the guise of a reconnaissance and electronic intelligence-gathering platform.

The perfection of turboprop technology by the mid-1950s ushered in a new era of military transportation. Higher power levels at greater economy, in turn, led to larger airplanes being built. The first of these, Lockheed’s famous C-130 Hercules, inspired the Antonov design bureau to provide the Soviet Union with a craft of equal util­ity. The An 12 was developed in 1958 and, like the Hercules, is a high-wing monoplane with an up­swept rear section. The pressurized fuselage is completely circular in cross-section and possesses large landing gear fairings on either side. But un­like the American craft, the An 12 sports an integral rear loading ramp that can be folded and stored. Antonov’s machine is also unique in mounting a tailgun position immediately below the rudder. It was a powerful addition to the Red Air Force after
becoming operational in 1960, and it could lift up to 20 tons of light tanks and trucks or 100 paratroop­ers while operating from the crudest landing strips. The An 12 therefore gave the Red Army a strategic mobility never before possessed. An estimated 850 of these brutish transports, designated CUB by NATO, were built by 1973.

As would be expected, the An 12 saw wide­spread use among the Warsaw Pact and other na­tions sympathetic to the Soviet Union. In addition to transportation duties, it also made an ideal platform for electronic espionage, with three versions being built. The CUB A was an interim type with bladelike antennas on the forward fuselage. The CUB B was fitted with two prominent belly radomes in addition to blade antennas, and the CUB C, sporting the usual array of antennas, had the tail turret deleted in favor of a radome. Most Russian An 12s have since been retired on account of wing-spar fatigue. Other major users, like India, are looking for jet-powered replacements.

. О Ansaldo SVA 5 Primo

Type: Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 211 feet, 4 inches; length, 190 feet; height, 41 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 251,323 pounds; gross, 551,146 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 15,000-horsepower KKBM NK-12MA turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,605 feet; range, 6,804 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1967-


he mighty Antei was once the world’s largest air­plane and established several weight and alti­tude records that still stand. Despite its sheer bulk, it handles well and operates easily from unprepared airstrips.

Russia is characterized geographically by huge distances and varied topographical features that can make surface travel difficult, if not impos­sible. Air transportation is a possible solution, but this means that equipment must ferry huge quanti­ties of cargo and supplies in order to be meaning­ful. In 1962 the Antonov design bureau was tasked with constructing a huge transport plane to facili­tate the shuttling of military goods and services around the country and the world. In only three years, a functioning prototype emerged that stunned Western authorities when unveiled at the Paris Air Salon in 1965. The massive An 22 Antei (Antheus, after a huge son of Neptune in Greek mythology) was a well-conceived enlargement of the previous An 12. Like its predecessor, it was cir­cular in cross-section and possessed wheel fairings
under the fuselage. It also sports a capacious cargo hold and a pressurized crew and passenger cabin. To facilitate operations off wet and unprepared airstrips, pressurization of the six pairs of wheels is controllable from the flight deck and can be changed in midair to suit any landing surface. The secret to the An 22’s prodigious hauling ability is found in the trailing-edge flaps. These are designed to utilize the powerful prop wash flowing over the wing from the four contrarotating turboprop en­gines and provide added lift. Its military implica­tions were obvious, and since 1969 an estimated 100 of the giant craft have been built and deployed. The NATO code name is COCK.

The An 22 was the world’s biggest airplane fol­lowing its debut and established many useful world records. The only Soviet transport capable of freighting a T-72 tank, it was employed by the USSR as a propaganda machine during many “humanitar­ian” flights abroad. This giant reigned supreme until 1968, when an even larger craft, Lockheed’s C-5A Galaxy, premiered.

. О de Havilland Canada DHC1 Chipmunk

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 4 inches; length, 25 feet, 5 inches; height, 7 feet Weights: empty, 1,425 pounds; gross, 2,014 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 145-horsepower de Havilland Gypsy air-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 138 miles per hour; ceiling, 15,800 feet; range, 280 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1946-1996


he famous Chipmunk was de Havilland Canada’s first product and a very successful one at that. Built in large numbers, it trained pilots in Canada, England, and countries across the world.

Even before World War II had concluded, de Havilland and its Canadian subsidiary began negoti­ating for a new postwar trainer. Such a craft would be invariably compared against the immortal Tiger Moth, one of the greatest training machines of all time. If successful, the parent company even offered help in marketing it abroad. By 1946 a design team headed by W. J. Jakimiuk created a simple, robust machine that they dubbed the Chipmunk. It was a low-wing monoplane constructed entirely of metal, save for the control surfaces, which were fabric-cov­ered. Under a braced canopy sat pupil and instruc­tor in tandem, and the craft also employed fixed landing gear. Intended as a primary trainer, the first DHC 1 Chipmunks accepted into Canadian service were not stressed and, consequently, not entirely ac­robatic. They were, however, gentle, responsive air­planes and quite popular in their intended role. By
1951 de Havilland Canada manufactured 218 Chip­munks. Many were subsequently fitted with a blown bubble canopy for better all-around vision.

In 1951 several DHC 1s were dispatched to En­gland for evaluation as a standard Royal Air Force trainer. Flight tests were successful, but the RAF in­sisted on certain modifications to bring the machine up to their more rigorous standards. These included a variable-pitch propeller, all-around stressing, land­ing lights, antispin stakes, and landing gear that were moved forward. This done, the parent de Havilland company produced an additional 740 Chipmunks for the RAF. These machines fleshed out virtually every training squadron in the service for several years. Others were taken to Germany, stripped of their rear seat, and employed as light communications aircraft. A handful were also employed in Cyprus for internal security duties during difficulties there in 1958. Thereafter, several score found markets abroad. The venerable DHC 1s remained in declining numbers until 1996, when all were officially discharged. Sev­eral hundred still fly today in private hands.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Dimensions: wingspan, 240 feet, 5 inches; length, 226 feet, 8 inches; height, 68 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 385,800 pounds; gross, 892,875 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 51,590-pound thrust Lotarev D-18T turbofan engines

Performance: maximum speed, 537 miles per hour; range, 10,523 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1987-


n 1985 the mighty Ruslan edged out Lockheed’s C-5A to become the biggest airplane to achieve production status. Three years later it was sur­passed by an even larger derivative, the An 225.

In 1968 the U. S. Air Force’s acquisition of the giant C-5A Galaxy gave it unparalleled ability to ship military hardware anywhere on the globe. The Soviet Union needed similar capacities to keep pace with the West, so in 1974 the Antonov design bureau was instructed to cease production of the huge An 22 turboprop transport and commenced designing a jet-powered craft. The specifications established for the An 124 were mind-boggling: It had to carry a minimum cargo of 150 tons to any point within the Soviet empire without refueling. Antonov, drawing inspiration from previous designs and the C-5A, fielded a prototype in 1985. The new An 124 was 18 feet wider than the vaunted Galaxy, and it also pos­sessed 53 percent greater hauling capacity. Like its competitor, which it greatly resembles, the Ruslan (named after Puskin’s legendary giant) has nose and
tail cargo doors that allow vehicles to drive on and off. The spacious cargo hold is lined by a special ti­tanium floor equipped with rollers, and roof- mounted hydraulic winches facilitate cargo-han­dling. It also has a pressurized passenger cabin for 88 people. Moreover, the giant craft can be made to “kneel” while unloading through retractable nose – wheels. Since 1987 an estimated 48 An 124s have been built, with half going to the air force and the re­mainder operated by the state airline Aeroflot. The NATO designation is CONDOR.

The reign of the An 124 was exceedingly short, for in 1988 it yielded the throne to an even bigger de­rivative, the An 225 Mriya (Dream). This is essen­tially a stretched Ruslan fitted with six turbofans that expel a combined total of 309,540 pounds of thrust! It was expressly designed to freight heavy components for the Russian space program, carry­ing large items like the space shuttle Buran piggy­back. Only two of these giants have been built, and they remain the largest aircraft in world history.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 31 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 4,057 pounds; gross, 5,457 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 690-horsepower Junkers Jumo 210 Da liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 190 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,575 feet; range, 258 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1936-1940


he Arado Ar 68 was the last biplane fighter of the German Luftwaffe. A capable performer, it briefly fulfilled a variety of duties, including training and nighttime fighting.

By the terms of the 1918 Armistice, Germany was forbidden to possess military aircraft of any kind. But even before the Nazi era commenced, the German war ministry began secretly developing warplanes in collusion with the Soviet Union. By 1933 the newly elected Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler scoffed at these treaty provisions and encour­aged Arado to develop a new fighter to replace the unpopular Heinkel He 51. Arado had previously ac­quired much experience in Russia, so in 1935 it fielded the first prototype Ar 68. This was a single­bay biplane with an oval-section fuselage made of metal. The wings were constructed of wood and were fabric-covered. A distinctive feature was the rather high, thin rudder, which subsequently became an Arado trademark. Results were initially disap­pointing, and subsequent prototypes experimented with a variety of power plants. By 1936 a 750-horse-
power BMW Vi-powered Ar 86 was regarded as ready and commenced flight trials against the He 51. The Luftwaffe high command was reluctant to ac­quire another biplane, seeing how the monoplane Messerschmitt Bf 109 was on the verge of produc­tion. However, in the hands of Ernst Udet, the Ar 68 easily outflew its opponent, and the type entered production in 1937.

The Ar 68 was an efficient design, fast and for­giving, but also obsolete at the inception of its ca­reer. it flew well during test trials in Spain, but the Bf 109, also present, consistently outperformed it. Consequently, the type was acquired only in small numbers before the Messerschmitt emerged as the Luftwaffe’s standard fighter. By the onset of World War II in 1939, most Ar 68s were functioning as ad­vanced trainers. A naval version, the radial-engine Ar 167, was developed for possible deployment on the carrier Graf Zeppelin, but the project was scrapped. After brief service as emergency night fighters in 1940, all surviving Ar 68s were unceremo­niously retired.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 1 inch; height, 8 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 2,854 pounds; gross, 3,858 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 485-horsepower Argus As 410MA-1 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 211 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,965 feet; range, 615 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1940-1945


he Ar 96 was the Luftwaffe’s most significant ad­vanced trainer, for it instructed virtually all Ger­man pilots of World War II. It was built in greater number than any training craft of the period, save for the North American AT-6.

The Ar 96 was designed by Walter Blume in 1938 as a new advanced trainer for the Luftwaffe. It was a streamlined, low-wing monoplane constructed en­tirely of metal and stressed skin. Student and instruc­tor were housed in tandem seats under a highly glazed canopy. The fuselage was oval-sectioned and mono – coque in design, topped by a trademark Arado tail fin. The new craft was a delightful performer, with a 240- horsepower Argus As 10C in-line engine and a fixed, two-blade propeller. However, the undercarriage, which originally retracted outward toward the wings was totally redesigned. An inward, widetrack retract­ing system was subsequently adopted as better suited for rough student landings. The Ar 96 entered produc­tion in 1940, and over the next five years it was a com­mon sight at Luftwaffe training schools.

In 1940 the Ar 96B prototype emerged. This differed from earlier models by having a more powerful Argus AS 410A engine, as well as a lengthened fuselage housing more fuel. It also fea­tured a distinct, variable-pitch propeller spinner and a 7.9mm machine gun for gunnery training. This variant was built in large numbers throughout the war years by Arado, Ago, and the former Czech factories of Avia and Letov. By 1945 no less than 11,546 Ar 96s had rolled off the assembly lines. It constituted the mainstay of the Luftwaffe’s ad­vanced training force and, as such, bore a conspic­uous role in the overall excellence of that force. Toward the end of the war, several Ar 96Bs were impressed into field service with machine guns and bombs for ground-attack purposes. Afterward, the type was continued in production by the French concern SIPA, which built a wooden ver­sion in 1946, followed by an all-metal one. Similar craft were also manufactured in Czechoslovakia until 1948.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 40 feet, 8 inches; length, 36 feet, 1 inch; height, 14 feet, 4 inches Weights: empty, 6,580 pounds; gross, 8,223 pounds Power plant: 1 x 960-horsepower BMW 132K radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 193 miles per hour; ceiling, 23,000 feet; range, 670 miles Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2 x 20mm cannons; 220 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


rom Norway to the Mediterranean, the versatile Ar 196 served as the “eyes” of the German Kriegsmarine. Fast, well-armed, and solidly built, they were the best floatplanes of their class during World War II.

By 1936 it was envisioned that the newly re­constituted Kriegsmarine (German navy) was des­tined to serve as fast, hard-hitting commerce raiders. Because this required efficient aerial recon­naissance, the German Air Ministry issued specifica­tions for a new floatplane to accompany all German capital ships. In 1937 Arado perfected its prototype Ar 196 floatplane to compete with a design proffered by Focke-Wulf, the Fw 62. Arado’s craft was a radial – engine, low-wing monoplane with twin floats. It was of all-metal construction and stressed skin, save for the rear fuselage, which was fabric-covered. The trailing edges of the rounded wings were filled en­tirely with flaps and ailerons. Once fitted with a vari­able-pitch, three-blade propeller, the Ar 196 easily outperformed its rival and entered service in 1939. In time, it ultimately outfitted air units on board the
major warships Bismark, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Prinz Eugen, Admiral Scheer, Graf Spee, and Lut – zow.

In service the Ar 196 proved to be among the most capable floatplanes of the war, one of few de­signs to serve outside the Pacific. Moreover, it exhib­ited better performance than contemporary British and U. S. machines like the Fairey Sea Fox and Cur­tiss Seagull. As spotting aircraft, Ar 196s would shadow enemy vessels and relay intercept coordi­nates back to their home ships. Those not stationed on warships flew from bases ringing the Bay of Bis­cay and the Mediterranean. And despite their float­plane configuration, they were well-armed and could put up a fight. On May 5, 1940, two Ar 196s under Lieutenant Gunther Mehrens spotted the dam­aged British submarine HMS Seal off Denmark and forced its surrender. Other Ar 196s provided escort duty for Axis convoys and occasionally shot up British patrol aircraft with their heavy armament. Ar 196s served in dwindling numbers until the war’s end. A total of 593 were built.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 3 inches; length, 41 feet, 5 inches; height, 14 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 11,464 pounds; gross, 21,715 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,980-pound thrust Junkers Jumo 004B turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 460 miles per hour; ceiling, 32,810 feet; range, 684 miles

Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; 3,307 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1944-1945


he beautiful Blitz was the world’s first opera­tional jet bomber. Appearing too late to affect events in World War II, it served as a technological precursor of things to come.

In 1940 the German Air Ministry laid down specifications for a fast reconnaissance craft pow­ered by the new Junker Jumo jet engines, then un­dergoing bench tests. The Arado design team, headed by Walter Blume and Hans Rebeski, came up with an extremely handsome machine. The Ar 234 was a high-wing monoplane made entirely of metal. The pilot sat up front in a fully glazed nose section, and two podded jet engines were mounted under straight wings. To reduce drag, the fuselage was de­liberately kept as narrow as possible, although this initially precluded the use of landing gear. In fact, the first six prototypes were fitted with detachable trolleys that fell away upon takeoff, leaving the craft to land on skids. Commencing with the seventh pro­totype, all subsequent Ar 234s received narrow- track landing gear. In flight the Ar 234 was extremely
fast and quite maneuverable; it also pioneered such novel technology as pressurized cabins, ejection seats, autopilots, and bombing computers. With the Nazi regime fading fast by 1944, the Ar 234 received priority production status, and 274 machines were assembled.

The Blitz commenced operational sorties over England in the fall of 1944, where its high speed ren­dered it immune from Allied interception. Given such good performance, it was decided to introduce a bomber version, the Ar 234 B-2, which carried bombs on its fuselage and engine pods. These were the world’s first operational jet bombers. Their most celebrated action occurred in January 1945, when waves of Ar 234s hit the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine, collapsing it. The Blitz continued its little war of unstoppable pinprick raids until the last few weeks of the war, when jet fuel became unavailable. Had this amazing airplane been available in quantity, serious damage might have resulted. It nonetheless demonstrated the viability of jet bomber technology.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 43 feet, 6 inches; length, 31 feet, 5 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches Weights: empty, 1,916 pounds; gross, 2,811 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Beardmore liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1917-1918


he FK 8 was one of the most numerous British observation aircraft of World War I. Fast, strong, and well-armed, it went by the chummy but unflat­tering appellation of “Big Ack.”

In 1914 Dutch aircraft designer Fredrick Kool – hoven submitted plans to the British air minister to replace its antiquated BE 2c with a more capable ma­chine. The design was entrusted to the firm Arm­strong-Whitworth, and in 1915 the FK 3 emerged. More than 500 of these machines, informally dubbed “Little Ack,” were constructed and equipped several squadrons in the Middle East. The following year Koolhoven suggested an upgraded version based upon the previous machine, and thus was born the FK 8. This was a standard biplane with two bay wings, the top of which exhibited pronounced dihe­dral. The crew of two sat in a deep fuselage con­structed from wood and fabric. One interesting fea­ture was the presence of controls in both cockpits so that a gunner could fly the plane if the pilot became
incapacitated. Early FK 8s were also fitted with an ugly central skid on the landing struts to prevent noseovers. Around 1,500 were manufactured.

In combat the “Big Ack” was a rugged machine and capable of defending itself. Although not speedy, it maneuvered well, absorbed great amounts of damage, and was considered superior to the con­temporary Royal Aircraft Factory RE 8. One inci­dent illustrates the combat career of the FK 8 above all others when, on March 27, 1918, Lieutenants Macleon and Hammond were jumped by eight of the formidable Fokker triplanes. In a running battle, the FK 8 managed to shoot down four of its opponents, even while burning and badly shot up. The two men survived a crash landing and subsequently received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest honor. The FK 8s were retired immediately after the war, but eight ended up in Australia. There they helped form the nucleus of the Northern Territory Aerial Services, better known today as QUANTAS.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 2 inches; length, 25 feet, 4 inches; height, 10 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 2,061 pounds; gross, 3,012 pounds

Power plant: 1 450-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 156 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,000 feet; range, 150 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns Service dates: 1927-1932


he Siskin was Britain’s first post-World War I fighter and the first to possess an all-metal struc­ture. It was phenomenally maneuverable and stan­dard fare at air shows for many years.

Britain, although victorious in World War I, was beset by extreme economic hardship during the postwar period. Consequently, it was unable to pro­cure new fighter craft for the Royal Air Force until 1924. That year the Royal Air Ministry authorized two models into production, the Gloster Grebe and the Armstrong-Whitworth Siskin. The latter origi­nated in a company aircraft of the same name that had first been designed in 1918. This was a standard, wood-constructed biplane in most respects, save for being powered by an ABC Dragon radial engine. A fine performer, it was subsequently refitted with a 200-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar radial, and it went on to win the 1923 King’s Cup Air Race with speeds of 149 miles per hour. The new proto­type, christened the Siskin III, differed from its predecessor in several respects. First, both wing and
fuselage frames were constructed of metal and were fabric-covered. As a sesquiplane, the upper wings were longer than the lower ones. The new craft was also the first British biplane to utilize vee interplane struts between the wings. In service the Siskin was a smart performer with outstanding maneuverabil­ity. A total of 62 machines were built in 1926, sup­planting aging Sopwith Snipes in two squadrons.

In 1927 a definitive variant, the Siskin IIIA, emerged. This version lacked both an auxiliary fin beneath the rear fuselage and the dihedral on the upper wing. Moreover, it was powered by the 450- horsepower Jaguar IVS engine, which endowed it with even greater performance. A total of 385 Siskin IIIAs were acquired, and they outfitted 11 fighter squadrons. Their handling was so outstanding that they frequently starred at the yearly Hendon Dis­plays. There No. 43 Squadron pioneered formation acrobatics and featured stunts with several aircraft tied together. The fine-flying Siskins were eventually phased out in 1932 by Bristol Bulldogs.

. Antonov An 124 Ruslan

Type: m Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 84 feet; length, 69 feet, 3 inches; height, 15 feet Weights: empty, 19,330 pounds; gross, 33,500 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,145-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin X liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 222 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,600 feet; range, 1,650 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 7,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he rugged Whitley was the principal British bomber during the early days of World War II. It was the first British aircraft to drop bombs on Ger­man soil since 1918 and saw extensive use up through the end of the war.

In 1935 Air Ministry Specification B.3/34 man­dated replacing the aging Handley Page Heyfords with a more modern design. Armstrong-Whitworth responded with what would become its most numer­ous aircraft. The Whitley was a midwing monoplane whose construction was midway between contem­porary designs and those of World War II. Con­structed of metal, it possessed twin rudders, and sported a retractable undercarriage. The slab-sided fuselage was also sheeted with flushed metal skin, but the thick wing lacked dihedral and the ailerons were fabric-covered. The Whitley performed well in test flights, and its drooping nose gave it a distinct, jut-jawed appearance. The Royal Air Force decided to place orders in 1936, and the following year Whit­leys began equipping various bomber squadrons. Subsequent versions were fitted with more power­
ful, in-line engines, and others were outfitted with radar and employed by the RAF Coastal Command. Production ran to 1,184 machines.

When World War II commenced in September 1939, Whitleys comprised the mainstay of RAF Bomber Command’s frontline strength. It was margin­ally obsolete and overshadowed by the more modern Wellingtons and Hampdens, but in service it accom­plished a number of aviation firsts. After spending the first year dropping leaflets over Germany, in August 1940 Whitleys became the first British aircraft to drop bombs on Berlin since World War I. The following February, they bombed the Tragino viaduct after Italy’s declaration of war against Britain, the first such action against that country. Numerous Whitleys were then rigged for parachute operations, and in February 1942 the German radar installation at Bruneval was raided. They also sank their first U-boat in the Bay of Biscay on November 30, 1941. These unattractive, rugged aircraft finally performed training and pa­trolling activities up through the end of hostilities. The Whitley was a capable, underappreciated aircraft.

. Dewoitine D510

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 8 inches; length, 26 feet; height, 8 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 2,870; gross, 4,235 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 860-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Ycrs liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 250 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,500 feet; range, 435 miles Armament: 2 x 7.7mm machine guns, 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1935-1940


he Dewoitine 500 series represented the most modern, technically ambitious fighters of their day. They marked a transition phase between open – cockpit biplanes of the 1920s and the more modern aircraft of World War II.

In 1930 the French Aeronautique Militaire is­sued specifications for a new fighter to replace the aging Nieuport-Delage ND 62s then deployed. It fell upon designer Emile Dewoitine to conceive a revo­lutionary new concept that spelled the beginning of the end for biplanes. First flown in 1932, the Dewoi – tine 500 exuded modernity. It was a cantilevered, low-wing monoplane constructed entirely of metal. The craft was covered by stressed metal sheeting and completely devoid of drag-inducing struts and bracing wires. The only seemingly antiquated fea­ture was fixed landing gear with conspicuous ob­long spats. The in-line engine was closely covered by a pointed cowl, giving the craft an ultramodern, very sleek appearance. In the air, the Dewoitine was faster than its biplane contemporaries, more maneu­verable, and, because of its metal construction,
much stronger. The Armee de l’Air was duly im­pressed by the new machine, and it entered produc­tion in 1933. Within two years a total of 143 were built, including a number of cannon-armed Model 501s.

In August 1934 Dewoitine fielded a more re­fined version, the Model 510. It mounted a larger rudder, an uprated engine, and other aerodynamic refinements. Consequently, it became the first French fighter to exceed 250 miles per hour in level flight. The French air service acquired an additional 120 of these sleek machines, with a further 30 being assigned to the Navy’s Aviation Maritime (naval air arm). These craft also caught the attention of sev­eral governments and were exported abroad, with China acquiring 24 D 510s, Lithuania 14. The Dewoi – tine series still equipped several frontline units as late as 1940, at which time they had been overtaken and rendered obsolete by the newer Messerschmitt Bf 109. Nonetheless, the D 500 series made history by anticipating modern design trends by several years.




Avia B 534

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 30 feet, 10 inches; length, 26 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 3,218 pounds; loaded, 4,365 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 850-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Ydrs liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 245 miles per hour; ceiling, 34,875 feet; range, 360 miles Armament: 4 x 7.92mm machine guns Service dates: 1934-1944


he beautiful Avia B 534 epitomized the very best of biplane technology. Although fast and maneu­verable, it could not compete with modern mono­plane fighters under development.

In 1932 the Avia firm under designer Frantisek Novotny substantially revised and updated its B 34 biplane fighter. Within a year a prototype emerged as the B 534, a machine as elegant in appearance as it was splendid in performance. Structurally, the B 534 was a single-bay biplane with wings of unequal length and highly staggered. Ailerons were placed on both the upper and lower wings to enhance ma­neuverability, while the whole craft was made of steel spars covered in fabric. The fuselage was streamlined and fitted with a beautifully wrought, close-fitting engine cowling. Moreover, it was heav­ily armed, mounting four machine guns. Two of these were originally wing-mounted, but when trials revealed unacceptable vibration when fired, they were relocated to the fuselage. The prototype was also fitted with a traditional open canopy, but subse­quent production models were fully enclosed. Suf­
fice it to say that the Czechoslovakian Army Air Force now possessed the fastest, most maneuver­able biplane fighter on the continent.

The B 534 was delightful to fly, fast, and re­sponsive to controls. At the 1937 Zurich Interna­tional Flying Meet, it dominated all events and cate­gories until pitted against Germany’s landmark monoplane fighter, the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Against this new breed of warrior, the Avia finished a close second, but the eclipse of biplane fighters was at hand. These craft might have put up tremen­dous resistance in 1938 when the Germans occupied western Czechoslovakia, but events transpired with­out a shot. A total of 446 Avia B 534s thus passed into German hands, and they were employed by the Luftwaffe as trainers and target tugs. Others were also similarly accorded to the puppet Slovak Air Force, which accompanied Hitler’s 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. Indifferently flown by unsympa­thetic pilots, they failed to distinguish themselves. A handful of B 534s eventually flew against Germany during the Slovak revolt of 1944.

Подпись: Aviatik C IAustria-Hungary/Germany

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 27 feet; length, 22 feet; height, 7 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 1,440 pounds; gross, 2,152 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 160-horsepower Mercedes liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 111 miles per hour; ceiling, 8, 200 feet; range, 280 miles

Armament: 1 x 7.62mm machine gun; 40 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1914-1918


he Aviatik series was mediocre and quickly with­drawn from the Western Front during World War

I. However, the long range and dependability of these aircraft enabled them to serve in secondary theaters with distinction.

Following the onset of hostilities in August 1914, the Automobil und Aviatik AG company of Leipzig, Germany, commenced production of two – seat reconnaissance machines based upon its prewar P.15A models. An Austrian subsidiary, Osterreichis – che-Ungarische Flugzeugfabrik Aviatik of Vienna, also brought out slightly modified forms of the same craft. The first series, known as the Aviatik B I, was a conventional, fabric-covered, two-bay biplane with a slightly longer upper span. These craft were unusual in having the pilot placed in the rear seat while the gunner occupied the front. This seemingly absurd arrangement appreciably interfered with the latter’s field of fire while also obstructing the pilot’s view. Nonetheless, in the early days of aerial conflict, the long range and pleasant flying characteristics of the Aviatik made it popular with crews. It was also one
of the few two-seaters that could be rigged with bombs for harassment raids. Two subsequent ver­sions, the B II and B III were introduced with more powerful engines and more conventional seating. These machines could fly nearly half again as fast and as high as the first model, but by 1916 they suf­fered heavily at the hands of improved Allied fight­ers. Moreover, they were aerodynamically less stable than earlier versions. The Germans eventually deemed them unacceptable for the Western Front.

In an attempt to upgrade the performance of Austrian aircraft, a new version, the C I, was intro­duced in 1915. Modifications included a new 160- horsepower Mercedes engine, an exhaust stack piped over the top wing, and a streamlined spinner. However, this model reverted back to the awkward arrangement of placing the pilot in the rear seat, a feature corrected again in the subsequent C III model. For want of a better replacement, they re­mained in Austrian service on the Italian and Rus­sian fronts up through the end of the war. A total of 167 C models were constructed.


Avia B 534

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: 26 feet, 3 inches; length, 22 feet, 9 inches; height, 8 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 1,345 pounds; gross, 1,878 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Daimler liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 115 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,177 feet; range, 250 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1917-1918


he “Berg Scout” was the first fighter designed and mass-produced in Austria. Although fast­climbing and maneuverable, it was distrusted by pi­lots because of a reputation for frailty.

In the fall of 1916, the Osterreichische-Un – garische Flugzeugfabrik Aviatik of Vienna began constructing a single-seat version of its two-seater C I machine. The chief designer, Julius von Berg, in­corporated many features of the previous model into the new craft, which became known as the “Berg Scout.” The D I was a conventional biplane fighter with slightly staggered, single-bay wings. However, the fuselage was very deep, leaving only the pilot’s head exposed. This provided considerable shelter against the elements but interfered with for­ward vision. Worse yet, the D I was armed with a single machine gun mounted on the top wing that fired above the propeller arc at an angle. Thus situ­ated, pilots enjoyed clear shots only while diving upon a target. However, the D I was light and, pro­pelled by a 185-horsepower Daimler motor, climbed like a rocket. It entered production in the spring of
1917 and joined the ranks of the hard-pressed Luft – fahrtruppe (Austrian air service) that fall.

In service many pilots expressed displeasure with the D I’s performance. Flight tests demon­strated that it could outclimb and outturn the Aus­trian-built Albatros (Oef) D III with ease, but several machines crashed after structural wing failures. Moreover, the new 200-horsepower Daimler engines were powerful but prone to overheating. An entire series of experimental radiators was eventually fit­ted, but these only further obstructed the already cramped front view. In an attempt to up-gun the D I, a pair of machine guns was also fitted with inter­rupter gear that fired through the propeller arc, but these were placed so far forward that pilots could not unjam them by hand. Despite long-standing defi­ciencies in the machine, Austrian pilots eventually adapted to the “Berg Scout,” and it rendered re­spectable service against a host of Italian and Rus­sian aircraft. Production orders totaled 1,200 air­craft, but only 700 had been delivered by the time of the Armistice.

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance; Light Bomber; Fighter; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet; length, 29 feet, 5 inches; height, 10 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 1,240 pounds; gross, 1,800 pounds Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine Performance: maximum speed, 82 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,000 feet; range, 250 miles Armament: usually none, or 1 x.303-inch machine gun; up to 80 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1913-1933


he gangly Avro 504 rates as one of the greatest airplanes ever. In a career spanning two decades it underwent many modifications and trained gener­ations of pilots.

In 1913 Alliot Verdon Roe, a pioneer of tractor – propelled airplanes, demonstrated his latest cre­ation, a rather modest-looking craft called the Avro 504. It was a standard two-seater biplane with four – bay wings and a large skid protruding from its land­ing gear. It was also immensely strong and exhibited docile handling qualities once airborne. Both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy ordered sev­eral copies on the eve of World War I. Not surpris­ingly, Avro 504s were among the many reconnais­sance aircraft dispatched to France, and on August 22, 1914, one received the dubious distinction of be­coming the first British airplane lost in combat. The Royal Navy, fortunately, had outfitted their 504s as light bombers, and on November 21, 1914, four of the little biplanes launched a daring and devastating
raid upon the Zeppelin hangars at Friedrichshafen. During the course of the war, this handy craft re­ceived several modifications and one, the K version, was a single-seat fighter employed by home defense units until 1918!

However, it was as a trainer that the Avro 504 found its niche in aviation history. Commencing with the J model of 1916, it trained thousands of British and Allied pilots, including Prince Albert, the future King George VI. Moreover, it was the machine of choice at the famous School of Special Flying at Gosport. There the famous Major R. R. Smith-Barry used 504s to initiate his new and standardized sys­tem of flight instruction. After the war, it remained in production up through 1927 and was fitted with a bewildering variety of power plants. A total of 8,970 Avro 504s were built in England, with another 2,000 constructed in the Soviet Union. These remained in frontline service with the Royal Air Force until 1933 and flew many years thereafter with private owners.

Avia B 534

Type: Reconnaissance; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 56 feet, 6 inches; length, 42 feet, 3 inches; height, 13 feet, 1 inch

Weights: empty, 5,375 pounds; gross, 9,900 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 420-horsepower Cheetah XV radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 188 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,200 feet; range, 700 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 360 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1968


he venerable Anson was one of the longest-serv­ing types in Royal Air Force history. Ease of fly­ing and great reliability garnered it the nickname “Faithful Annie.”

In 1935 the British Air Ministry invited Avro to develop a twin-engine landplane for reconnaissance purposes. Avro drew upon its Model 652 commercial craft, two of which were sold to Imperial Airways in 1933. The prototype Anson was based upon this air­craft and first flew in 1935. It was a low-wing mono­plane of mixed steel-tube, wood, and fabric con­struction. The fuselage was long and rectangular and sported a conspicuous dorsal gun turret. Having successfully concluded flight tests, Ansons entered service with the RAF in 1936. They were significant in being the first monoplane types accepted into ser­vice, and the first British warplane with retractable (if hand-cranked) landing gear. By the advent of World War II in 1939, Ansons equipped no less than 12 squadrons with the RAF Coastal Command. Its all-around utility and docile handling prompted the nickname “Faithful Annie.”

The Anson was marginally obsolete at the commencement of hostilities yet gave a good ac­count of itself before being replaced by Armstrong – Whitworth Whitleys and Lockheed Hudsons. Only two days after the declaration of war in September 1939, one dropped bombs on a U-boat, the first of­fensive action taken by a Coastal Command aircraft. In June 1940 a trio of Ansons was jumped by nine formidable Bf 109 fighters; the little cluster not only beat off the assailants but also shot down two and damaged a third! By 1942 they were replaced by more modern types, but Ansons continued to per­form important work as trainers. Several versions were introduced during the war that instructed thousands of pilots, radio operators, and gunners throughout commonwealth air forces. Ansons re­mained in production until 1952; 11,020 had been constructed in Great Britain and Canada. The last six British aircraft served as communications air­craft until mustering out with great ceremony in


Avia B 534

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 102 feet; length, 69 feet, 6 inches; height, 20 feet Weights: empty, 36,900 pounds; gross, 68,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 1,460-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin XX liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 287 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,500 feet; range, 660 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1942-1954


he Lancaster overcame troubled beginnings to become Britain’s legendary heavy bomber of World War II. Fitted with special ordnance, it gained special renown as the “Dam Buster.”

In 1936 the British Air Ministry released Specifi­cation P. 13/36 for a new twin-engine medium bomber. Avro originated the Manchester, which was a sound design but powered by totally unreliable Rolls-Royce Vulture engines. Two hundred of these unfortunate craft were built, but all left the service by 1942. How­ever, the machine was refitted with an increased wingspan to accommodate four engines and rechris­tened the Lancaster. Thus was born the outstanding British night bomber of World War II. The Lancaster was an all-metal, high-wing monoplane with dual rud­ders. The fuselage was an oval-shaped, monocoque construction with a cavernous bomb bay extending half the length of the fuselage. This capacious feature could carry a variety of explosive and incendiary de­vices. The big bomber was rushed into production, with many Manchesters being converted while still on the production line. The new bomber commenced operations over Germany in March 1942, and within a
year Lancasters largely supplanted the Handley Page Halifaxes and Short Stirlings as the backbone of RAF Bomber Command. They proved instrumental in implementing the Royal Air Force policy of nighttime saturation bombing of German cities and industrial centers.

Lancasters distinguished themselves in the evening skies over Europe by delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties. However, they are best remembered for two very special attacks. The first, launched against the Mohne and Eder dams on May 17, 1943, utilized the famous Barnes Wallis “skipping bomb” that demolished its targets. The second fell upon the German battleship Tirpitz in Norway. On November 12, 1944, 31 Lancasters armed with 12,000-pound “Tallboy” bombs finally sank the dreaded raider in a fjord. By war’s end, Lancasters had been modified to carry the 22,000- pound “Grand Slam” bomb. Many subsequently joined the RAF Coastal Command and performed maritime reconnaissance work until 1954. A total of 7,377 were built, and a handful remained in Cana­dian service until 1964.

Avia B 534

Type: Patrol-Bomber; Early Warning

Dimensions: wingspan, 120 feet; length, 87 feet, 4 inches; height, 16 feet, 9 inches Weights: empty, 57,000 pounds; gross, 98,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 9,820-horsepower Roll-Royce Griffon liquid cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 273 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 2,900 miles Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons; up to 20,00 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1951-1991


he anachronistic Shackleton was the RAF’s first dedicated maritime patrol-bomber. Fitted with decidedly third-rate radar, it also served as En­gland’s first distant-early-warning aircraft.

The Shackleton can trace its roots to the fa­mous Avro Lancaster through an intermediary type, the Lincoln heavy bomber. In 1946 the Royal Air Force sought to replace its World War Il-vintage pa­trol-bombers with a completely modern type. A standard Lincoln was accordingly modified into a prototype maritime patrol craft, and the differences were so pronounced that a new designation became necessary. The new Shackleton utilized the same wing and undercarriage as its forebear but em­ployed an all-new fuselage that was narrower and taller. The first MR 1 version did not become opera­tional with the RAF Coastal Command until 1951. The following year the MR 2 appeared with an ex­tended and heavily modified nose section. The final version, the MR 3, finally debuted in 1955. This craft featured a nosewheel, tricycle landing gear, and
fixed wingtip tanks to boost the already impressive cruise range. The dorsal turret was also deleted in favor of additional space, and a clear-view cockpit canopy was fitted. Moreover, to alleviate the strain of extended patrols on the crew, it also possessed such creature comforts as a soundproof wardroom. These durable craft performed well, and all were re­tired from maritime duties in 1971 by the jet-pow­ered Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod.

Defense cuts in the late 1960s led to the moth­balling of several aircraft carriers and, with them, the distant-early-warning Fairey Gannet aircraft. As a completely stopgap effort, 12 of the obsolete MR 2 Shackletons were then dusted off, fitted with the Gannet’s World War II-vintage radar, and employed as the new AEW 2. This was a ramshackle affair at best, but the British government saw fit to employ these flying museum pieces until their replacement by infinitely superior Boeing E-3A Sentries in 1991. Thus ended an aircraft dynasty that had served Britain long and well for nearly half a century.

Avia B 534

Type: Strategic Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 99 feet; length, 97 feet, 1 inch; height, 27 feet, 1 inch Weights: empty, unknown; gross, 200,000 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 20,000-pound thrust Bristol Olympus 301 turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 650 miles per hour; ceiling, 60,000 feet; range, 5,750 miles Armament: up to 21,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear weapons Service dates: 1957-1982


he hulking Vulcan was the second of Britain’s fa­mous “V” bombers and the first such craft outfit­ted with a delta wing. Although intended for a possi­ble war with the Soviet Union, it fired its only shots in anger during the 1982 Falklands conflict.

A 1946 British air staff study recommended production of a trio of new strategic bombers that combined high speed, heavy payload, and great range. The Air Ministry then issued Specification B.35/46 to that effect, and an Avro design team under Roy Chadwick came up with a unique solu­tion. They held that a large delta configuration was the best possible solution to all three requirements, especially in providing lift and, hence, range. A pro­totype of the huge craft was rolled out in August 1952 as the Vulcan. It was a very streamlined air­plane, with the air intakes and engines buried within the wing and tricycle landing gear. The design was strong enough to be rolled in flight, and the proto­type exhibited fighterlike qualities. The only major problem encountered was buffeting at high speeds,
which was corrected on production models by pro­viding a kinked leading edge and a less swept-back wing. The Vulcan B.1 entered the service in 1957, and 45 were constructed. These were followed by 87 of the B.2 model in 1960, which had extensively modified flight-control surfaces and stronger en­gines. This version was also equipped to fire the nu­clear-tipped Blue Steel standoff missile.

The Vulcans served capably in their roles as part of the West’s nuclear deterrent. However, when the Soviet Union finally perfected surface-to-air mis­sile technology, the big bomber’s mission changed from high-altitude bombing to low-altitude penetra­tion. New and better electronic countermeasures were installed, as well as an array of conventional bombs. The Vulcans were due to be phased out early in 1982 but earned a brief reprieve during the Falklands conflict with Argentina of that year, where a handful conducted very long-range bombing mis­sions with mixed results. This memorable bomber’s replacement was the Panavia Tornado.

. Dewoitine D 520

Dimensions: wingspan, 33 feet, 5 inches; length, 28 feet, 8 inches; height, 8 feet, 5 inches Weights: empty, 4,685 pounds; gross, 5,897 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 930-horsepower Hispano-Suiza 12Y45 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 332 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,620 feet; range, 553 miles Armament: 4 x 7.5mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon Service dates: 1939-1947


ewoitine’s racy D 520 was the most modern and capable French fighter of World War II. It fought with distinction in 1940 and went on to serve Vichy forces in Syria and North Africa.

By 1937 the French government felt pressing needs for new and more modern fighter aircraft. That year the Morane-Saulnier MS 405 won the com­petition when Dewoitine’s entry, the D 513, proved inferior. The company subsequently went back to the drawing board under Emile Dewoitine, Robert Castello, and Jacques Henrat to redesign a totally new machine. The D 520 prototype first flew in Octo­ber 1938 and was completely successful. It was an all-metal, low-wing monoplane fighter with stressed skin and retractable undercarriage. It was also heav­ily armed, possessing up to four machine guns and an engine-mounted 20mm cannon firing through the propeller hub. Moreover, the fighter plane proved impressively maneuverable and responsive, and it was faster than the MS 405. In 1939 the French gov­ernment decided to purchase it in quantity.

The commencement of World War II in Septem­ber 1939 did little to shake off the bureaucratic lethargy that plagued the French arms industry throughout the 1930s. Consequently, only one group de chasse (fighter group) was equipped with D 520s when the Germans invaded France in May 1940. Air­craft and pilots fought splendidly, claiming 147 enemy craft with a loss of 44 fighters, but France was nonetheless overwhelmed. Throughout the ensuing Vichy period, Germany allowed the D 520 to remain in production, and a total of 786 machines were built. They went on to reequip French forces in Syria and North Africa as Axis allies. In this capacity D 520s shot down numerous English airplanes while sustaining heavy losses of their own. In November 1942 Germany occupied Vichy France and impressed the surviving D 520s as trainers. After the Allied liberation of 1944, many Dewoitine fighters again passed into French hands and delivered parting shots against the retreat­ing Germans. Several D 520s were subsequently con­verted into two-seat trainers and flown until 1947.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Glider; Transport

Dimensions: wingspan, 68 feet, 5 inches; length, 36 feet, 10 inches; height, 9 feet Weights: empty, 1,896 pounds; gross, 4,630 pounds Power plant: none

Performance: maximum speed, 180 miles per hour Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1938-1945


he DFS 230 undertook the world’s first, success­ful glider assault in 1940. Thereafter it was widely employed in less glamorous work of a supply transport.

In 1932 an experimental glider had been de­signed by the Rhon-Rossitten Gesellschaft agency for meteorological research. Soon it came to the at­tention of Luftwaffe leader Ernst Udet, who envi­sioned military potential for such craft. Accordingly, a prototype was constructed by the firm Deutsches Forschunginstitut fur Segelflug and tested in 1937 before a large gathering of senior officers. The DFS 230 was a high-wing design with a boxlike fuse­lage that took off under tow, jettisoned its wheeled undercarriage, and landed on a belly skid. It was flown by a crew of two and could hold up to eight soldiers. In the hands of noted aviatrix Hanna Re- itsch, the prototype landed within a few feet of the generals and quickly disgorged its passengers. Fol­lowing this impressive display, the glider entered into production, and by 1938 Germany possessed the world’s first glider assault force.

In battle, the DFS 230s were usually towed by Junkers Ju 52 transports and released over a target, arriving silently and unannounced to the surprise of defenders. This is exactly what transpired on May 10, 1940, when 41 DFS 230s were assigned to take strate­gic Fort Eben-Emael on the Prince Albert Canal in Belgium. Nine gliders landed directly on target, stormed the fort, and held it against Belgian forces until the main German army arrived the following day. In May 1941 an even bigger force of 53 DFS 230s was towed in broad daylight over the British-held is­land of Crete. Resistance was fierce and losses heavy, but the island eventually succumbed to what was then the world’s largest airborne assault. Thereafter, most DFS 230s were employed in Russia, ferrying much-needed supplies to troops at the front. But per­haps their most notorious mission occurred on Sep­tember 12, 1943, in Abruzzi, Italy. There a glider force under legendary commando Otto Skorzeny put down on mountainous terrain just outside the Rifugio Hotel and rescued Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. A total of 1,022 of these useful gliders were built.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 43 feet, 7 inches; length, 25 feet, 10 inches; height, 19 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 2,143 pounds; gross, 3,146 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 200-horsepower Benz Bz IV liquid-cooled in-line engine

Performance: maximum speed, 97 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,400 feet; range, 350 miles

Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns

Service dates: 1916-1918


he ubiquitous DFW C series was built in greater numbers than any other German aircraft of World War I. Amazingly acrobatic, it frequently out – maneuvered the latest Allied fighters.

Throughout 1914-1916 Deutsche Flugzeug – Werke manufactured an unarmed two-seat reconnais­sance aircraft called the B I. Once outmoded by more advanced allied fighters, it spent the rest of the war in training capacities. Meanwhile, DFW moved ahead on newer two-seaters—the C series, which was both armed and more maneuverable than the earlier ma­chines. The most important was the C IV, which ap­peared at the front in the spring of 1916. It was a con­ventional two-bay biplane constructed of wood and fabric. The 150-horsepower Benz III engine was semi­cowled in Germanic fashion to facilitate cooling, and it sported a typical “rhinoceros”-type exhaust pipe. In service the C IV demonstrated excellent qualities, but the introduction of better enemy fighters again prompted DFW to update the basic design.

A new machine—the C V—emerged in the summer of 1916. It was outwardly very similar to the C IV but possessed a more powerful Benz IV engine and other aeronautical refinements. Among them were rounded tail contours, balanced tail surfaces, and side radiators. This last item was subject to con­siderable revision once the machine was mass-pro­duced, and later-model C Vs were fitted with a box – type leading-edge device. The C V was well adapted for photographic and artillery-spotting roles and re­tained all the maneuverability of earlier models. Moreover, it could easily outturn the latest French and British fighters in pursuit. DFW ultimately con­structed 2,340 C types, making them the most nu­merous German aircraft of this conflict. C Vs consti­tuted the largest variant produced and were manufactured by DFW, Aviatik, and Halberstadt. More than 600 C Vs remained in frontline service by war’s end. On June 17, 1919, a C V established a world altitude record of 31,561 feet.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 77 feet, 9 inches; length, 63 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 12,897 pounds; gross, 22,046 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 880-horsepower Junkers Jumo 205D liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 162 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,780 feet; range, 2,175 miles Armament: 1 x 13mm machine gun; 1 x 20mm cannon; 220 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1942


raceful Do 18s formed the bulk of Luftwaffe maritime reconnaissance units in the early days of World War II. One of them suffered the indignity of becoming the first German aircraft lost to British forces.

Throughout the late 1920s, Deutsche Luft­hansa transatlantic business was conducted on the Dornier Do 15 Wal (Whale) flying boat, which estab­lished several record flights. In 1934 its successor, the Do 18, first appeared. This craft incorporated many characteristics of the previous design, having retained the two large sponsons on either side of the midfuselage. These features endowed it with stabil­ity in the water and also provided additional lift while in flight. The Do 18 was powered by two en­gines in tandem arrangement, one pulling and one pushing, atop of the wing. Several were acquired by Lufthansa in 1936, and within two years one Do 18 established a world record by flying 5,214 miles non­stop from Germany to Brazil. The Luftwaffe, which had also employed the older Do 15, began utilizing

Do 18s as of 1939. These differed from civilian ver­sions by having more powerful engines and gunner positions in the bow and midships.

Do 18s ultimately equipped five squadrons in the Kustenfliegergruppen (coastal reconnaissance groups) by the advent of World War II. They served primarily over the Baltic and North Sea, keeping a wary eye on British naval movements. On Septem­ber 26, 1939, three Do 18s were shadowing the British fleet when they were suddenly attacked by Blackburn Skuas from the carrier HMS Ark Royal. One of the stately flying boats was shot down, be­coming the first German plane lost in combat to Britain. After 1940 the Do 18s were slowly with­drawn from maritime reconnaissance in favor of air/sea rescue missions. These craft were subse­quently painted all white with large red crosses and largely ignored until the British discovered them conducting electronic surveillance. By 1942 the handful of Do 18s still in service functioned as trainers.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 84 feet; length, 61 feet, 8 inches; height, 18 feet

Weights: empty, 14,080 pounds; gross, 20,240 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 750-horsepower BMW VIU liquid-cooled in-line engines

Performance: maximum speed, 161 miles per hour; ceiling, 13,776 feet; range, 840 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.92mm machine guns; 2,205 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1935-1940


he Do 23, Germany’s first large bomber aircraft since World War I, was by most aviation stan­dards an operational flop. However, it played a major role in helping reconstitute the Luftwaffe bomber force.

By 1930 Germany was increasingly disposed to ignore provisions of the 1918 Armistice, which for­bade the nation from possessing combat aircraft. A number of firms, such as Dornier, had opened sub­sidiaries in Switzerland and other places to clandes­tinely develop such weapons. In this instance, Dornier had been entrusted to design Germany’s first large bomber since World War I. The prototype Do F was constructed at the company’s Swiss Al – tenhein factory in 1929, where it was marketed as a cargo transport intended for the German rail ser­vice. It was a twin-engine, high-wing monoplane de­sign of metal construction. The fuselage was rectan­gular in cross-section, and the lengthy wings possessed a long chord. The big craft also possessed rudimentary retractable landing gear. The Do F was employed exactly as advertised, despite its uncanny
resemblance to a bomber. Moreover, its crews were actually military personnel being clandestinely trained in the rudiments of aerial warfare. From this was developed a more refined version, the Do 11, in 1933. With Adolf Hitler now in power, all pretense toward civilian applications was dropped.

The Do 11 bomber appeared very similar to the Do F, save for a glazed bombardier section in the nose. It entered production as the Luftwaffe’s first bomber but was unpopular due to bad landing characteristics; only 79 were produced. Another failed version, the Do 13, was also made in small numbers. When these were subsequently modified with revised wing and tail surfaces in 1936, the type was reintroduced as the Do 23. A total of 273 units were built, fleshing out the first Luftwaffe bomber groups. The airplane performed well as a trainer, but its shortcomings as a bomber meant early re­tirement from frontline service in 1937. A handful survived during World War II and were outfitted with degaussing equipment for oceanic minefield work.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 88 feet, 7 inches; length, 72 feet, 2 inches; height, 17 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 29,700 pounds; gross, 40,565 pounds

Power plant: 3 x 1,000-horsepower Bramo Fafnir radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 211 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,360 feet; range, 2,950 miles Armament: 2 x 7.92mm machine guns; 1 x 20mm cannon; 1,200 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1939-1945


he Do 24 saw widespread service with the Luft­waffe as a reconnaissance and air/sea rescue craft. Throughout this same period it found similar employment with the Dutch and later Spanish navies.

In 1935 the Dutch government approached Dornier to build a new flying boat for use in the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service. Because work on the Do 18 had just completed, the new airplane in­corporated many features of its predecessor. The Do 24 was an all-metal, high-wing monoplane that utilized a typical two-step Dornier hull with large flotation sponsons on either side of the fuselage. The sizable tapered wing was fastened above the hull with struts and mounted three engines. A large twin rudder system was also employed. Service trials were excellent, and in 1939 the Do 24 entered Dutch service as part of the East Indies Air Forces. Several were also constructed in Holland under license.

In December 1941 the Japanese attack on the Dutch East Indies destroyed no less than nine

Do 24s. The remainder then fled to Australia, where another four succumbed to strafing. The surviving six Do 24s subsequently served with the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force in intelligence capacities until

1945. Following the German occupation of the Low Countries in 1940, all Do 24s then under production were seized and impressed by the Luftwaffe. These machines were outfitted as air/sea rescue craft and extensively flown in the Arctic, the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and the Atlantic. The Do 24 distin­guished itself in this capacity, being stoutly built and able to operate in rough water conditions. In one instance a Do 24 lost its tail section in high seas, so the crew simply sealed off the leak and tax­ied several hundred miles to land! Production of this useful craft was maintained in France and Hol­land, with a total of 294 being built. As a goodwill gesture to Spain, several Do 24s were sold in 1944, and they operated as air/sea rescue craft up through the 1970s.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Liaison; Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 39 feet, 4 inches; length, 31 feet, 4 inches; height, 8 feet, 10 inches

Weights: empty, 2,167 pounds; gross, 3,460 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 275-horsepower Lycoming GO-480 air-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 155 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,825 feet; range, 685 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1957-


he Do 27 was a successful postwar design and marked Germany’s reentry into military aviation. It was a functional, rugged aircraft with an excep­tionally varied and lengthy service life.

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was forbidden to possess or manufacture military aircraft of any kind. Consequently, Dr. Claude Dornier was forced to set up his office in Spain to continue working. In 1954 he received from the Spanish government specifications for a new light utility craft with STOL (short takeoff and landing) capabilities. That year the first prototype Do 25 flew as a high-wing, unbraced monoplane with fixed undercarriage and a spacious cabin. It was equipped with oversize flaps for good STOL per­formance. Another notable feature was the wide wraparound windscreen, which allowed for excel­lent vision. The machine displayed impressive qualities and was ordered in numbers by the gov­ernment. In light of existing restrictions, however, they were constructed by CASA in Spain as Do 27s.

The changing political climate of Central Eu­rope was then becoming transfixed over East-West confrontation as NATO under the United States faced off against the Warsaw Pact headed by the Soviet Union. The Americans were determined to make Ger­many a full-fledged military partner and allowed it to rearm. It was against this background that Dr. Dornier offered his new plane to the newly formed Luftwaffe (air force) and Heersflieger (army air force) of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Do 27, by virtue of its excellent ability to operate from short, unprepared strips became much in de­mand as an all-purpose liaison and general utility craft. Dornier then relocated back to Germany, where he constructed 428 of his rugged little airplanes. A second version, the Do 27B, was fitted with dual con­trols and operated as a trainer. Production concluded by 1966 after a run of 571 units. Given the great versa­tility of the Do 27, it was widely exported overseas to Israel, Nigeria, Belgium, Turkey, and Congo. Germany gradually replaced its Do 27s with helicopters in the late 1980s, and many were transferred to Portugal.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Medium Bomber; Night Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 62 feet, 4 inches; length, 55 feet, 9 inches; height, 16 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 19,985 pounds; gross, 36,817 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 1,700-horsepower BMW 810D radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 348 miles per hour; ceiling, 24,170 feet; range, 1,550 miles Armament: 4 x 7.9mm machine guns; 2 x 13mm machine guns; up to 8,818 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he “Flying Pencil” was a Luftwaffe workhorse throughout World War II. Although less numer­ous than competing Heinkel and Junker designs, it performed useful work in a wide variety of missions.

The Dornier Do 17 originated in a 1933 re­quest by Deutsche Lufthansa for a modern high­speed carrier for mail and passengers. The proto­type flew in 1934 as an all-metal, high-wing monoplane with a single fin. The new machine was fast, but the airline rejected it on account of its very narrow fuselage, which led to the name “Fly­ing Pencil.” Then the Luftwaffe expressed interest in developing the craft as a bomber. Fitted with a twin rudder assembly, the new Do 17s made a splash at the 1937 Military Aircraft Competition at Zurich, where they proved faster than any fighter present. By 1938 several bombers had been com­mitted to combat in Spain, where it was decided to provide the front cabin with the trademark “beetle – eye” canopy and heavier armament. More than

1,200 Do 17s were built, and in the early years of World War II they formed a vital part of the Luft­waffe bomber arm, along with He 111s and Ju 88s. Most were phased out by 1942.

In 1938 the Dornier design team conceived a progressive development, the Do 217. Despite out­ward similarities to the Do 17, this was an entirely new and more capable machine. Equipped with ra­dial engines, it served throughout the war years as a day bomber, a night fighter, and a dive-bomber. Like its predecessor, the Do 217 was fast, easy to fly, and very adaptable. By 1944 Model M and Model K ver­sions were equipped to handle Fritz X guided anti­ship missiles during the Italian campaign. In this ca­pacity Do 217s sank the British cruiser HMS Janus and also the Italian battleship Roma as it fled to join the Allies. Others were successfully rigged as night fighters. A final reconnaissance version, the Do 217P, could reach altitudes of 50,000 feet. More than 1,700 Do 217s were built.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Trainer

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 7 inches; length, 32 feet, 4 inches; height, 11 feet, 2 inches Weights: empty, 3,990 pounds; gross, 7,000 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C turboprop engine Performance: maximum speed, 278 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,000 feet; range, 1,145 miles Armament: none Service dates: 1983-


he racy Tucano is South America’s first and most successful advanced training aircraft. It contin­ues to be widely exported abroad in a number of versions.

In 1978 the Brazilian government approached Embraer to design a new trainer to replace its aging fleet of Cessna T-37s. The new craft would not only have to be cost-effective but also closely mimic jet flight characteristics. That year a design team under Joseph Kovacs began work on a proto­type that was unveiled in August 1980. The EMB 312 Tucano (Toucan) is a low-wing, turbo­prop monoplane with exceedingly sleek lines. It seats two crew members in tandem under a spa­cious staggered canopy and is the only aircraft of its class fitted with ejection seats. The Tucano de­rives its name from a long and distinct cowling, which houses a powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada turboprop engine. To better mimic the handling characteristics of jet flight, it also features a throt­tle control that simultaneously synchronizes the propeller pitch. This assures smooth and rapid ac­
celeration and deceleration. The plane exhibited delightful flying characteristics, so in 1983 the first EMB 312 was delivered to the Air Force Academy near Sao Paulo. Such high performance and low operating costs also attracted outside attention, with Egypt purchasing no less than 54 of these fine machines. In short order, Argentina, Columbia, Honduras, Paraguay, and Venezuela all purchased Tucanos for their cadets. The latest customer is France, which in 1994 ordered 80 examples with air brakes and deicing equipment.

By far the most significant user of the EMB 312 is Great Britain, which in 1985 sought to replace its BAe Jet Prevost trainers. Choosing the Tucano was significant because it represents the first trainer since the de Havilland Chipmunk of 1950 to seat pi­lots in tandem, not side by side. The British Tucanos are manufactured in Belfast by Shorts and are fitted with a more powerful Garrett turboprop engine and other advanced avionics. Thus far, more than 600 Tucanos have been built and exported around the world. A Brazilian success story!

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Light Bomber; Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 63 feet, 11 inches; length, 65 feet, 6 inches; height, 15 feet, 8 inches

Weights: empty, 27,950 pounds; gross, 54,950 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 7,400-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon turbo jet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 541 miles per hour; ceiling, 48,000 feet; range, 806 miles

Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 5,000 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1951-


he legendary Canberra was originally designed as a light bomber, but it also gained renown as a high-altitude spyplane. This superb machine was one of the most versatile aircraft ever constructed, and a handful still operate today—half a century after initial deployment.

The high performance of German jets in World War II prompted the British Air Ministry to release Specification B.3/45 in 1945 to acquire Britain’s first jet bomber. At length designer W. E.W. “Teddy” Pet – ter of English Electric decided against the very lat­est swept-wing philosophies then in vogue in favor of a conventional straight-wing design. He selected a very low-aspect wing, which was thin, broad, and ensured good fuel economy at very high cruising al­titudes. The first Canberra debuted in 1949 to the as­tonishment and delight of the Royal Air Force. It was a streamlined machine with two engines mounted midway in-between the wings. The fuse­lage was smooth and monocoque in construction,
seating two pilots under a large bubble canopy near the nose. From the onset, the new craft was amaz­ingly fast and agile at low altitude. In 1951 the first Canberra B.2s were deployed, the first of 27 distinct marks that were produced over a decade. Canber- ras were also highly successful as an export ma­chine, and they served in great numbers with Ar­gentina, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Kuwait, India, Sweden, the United States, and France. A total of 1,352 of these classic jet bombers were built.

It is not always appreciated that RAF Canber- ras conducted some of the earliest high-altitude over­flights of the Soviet Union in the early to mid-1950s. In concert with Martin RB-57s—the U. S. version— these were some of the earliest spy flights of the Cold War. The advent of Soviet surface-to-air missiles cur­tailed these activities by 1960, and RAF machines re­verted back to bombers and tactical reconnaissance until the 1980s. However, India still maintains and op­erates a large refurbished fleet of 65 Canberras.

. Dewoitine D 520

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 34 feet, 10 inches; length, 55 feet, 3 inches; height, 19 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 28,000 pounds; gross, 50,000 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 15,680-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon 302 turbojet engines Performance: maximum speed, 1,500 miles per hour; ceiling, 40,000 feet; range, 800 miles Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; 2 x Red Top or Firestreak missiles Service dates: 1961-1988


he fabulous Lightning was England’s first super­sonic fighter, as well as the first designed as an integrated weapons system. Despite maintenance headaches, it gave the Royal Air Force world-class interception capability.

The Air Ministry announced Specification

F. 23/49 in 1949 to stimulate production of a fighter that could operate faster than the speed of sound in level flight. W. E.W. “Teddy” Petter of English Electric had already designed a research craft called the P.1A, which was being constructed for that purpose. The prototype first flew in August 1954 with good results, but further development yielded the P.1B, a dramati­cally different aircraft. The most unusual feature was the engine arrangement—one stacked atop the other—which eliminated the need for a greater frontal area. The wings were also unusual in that they, as well as the tail surfaces, terminated at right angles to the flow of air. The P.1B became the first British aircraft to fly at twice the speed of sound in March 1958, and the government decided to enter it
into production as the Lightning. The first machines became operational in 1961 and differed from the prototype in having a faired bulge on the bottom of the fuselage for housing additional fuel. In service the Lightning was fast, highly agile, and possessed twice the performance of the aging Hawker Hunters. In time it developed into a world-class interceptor. However, with high speed came high fuel consump­tion, and the first F.1s were somewhat short-ranged. They were also dogged by recurrent maintenance problems, as technology this complex was a novelty.

The Lightning was also the first British fighter to serve as an integrated weapons system and not simply as a gunnery platform. It was equipped with an advanced fire control radar that simultaneously tracked targets and fired weapons at optimum range. A total of 338 of these impressive machines were built, and they remained in service until re­placed by Panavia Tornados in 1988. Several were also exported to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This was a superb interceptor in its day.

. Avro Canada CF 100 Canuck

Dimensions: wingspan, 58 feet; length, 54 feet, 1 inch; height, 15 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 18,000 pounds; gross, 37,000 pounds Power plant: 2 x 7,725-pound thrust Orenda turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 650 miles per hour; ceiling, 54,000 feet; range, 2,500 miles Armament: 8 x 12.7mm machine guns or 104 x 70mm unguided rockets Service dates: 1953-1981


he capable Canuck was the first warplane en­tirely designed in Canada and was specifically tailored for the defense of that country’s expansive reaches. It was also the first straight-wing jet fighter to exceed Mach 1, and enjoyed a career of consider­able longevity.

In 1945 the Canadian Department of National Defense issued demanding requirements for a new jet-powered all-weather interceptor—Canada’s first. Furthermore, any craft conforming to Specification AIR-7-1 would have to be optimized for operations at extreme latitudes off short, unprepared Arctic strips, as well as possess range in excess of 2,500 miles. With jet aviation technology then in its in­fancy, no such machine existed anywhere in the world. This obstacle did not deter an Avro Canada design team headed by John Frost, who conceived and built a functional prototype in January 1950. The new CF 100 was a large, all-metal monoplane with twin engines and nonswept wings. The engines were placed on either side of the capacious fuse­lage, where great amounts of fuel were stored.

There was also a high “T” tail arrangement to clear the jet efflux, and a crew of two was seated under a bubble canopy. The new craft flew well when Cana­dian-designed and – built Orenda engines were fitted. The CF 100 joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1953 as the world’s most advanced jet in­terceptor, and it was nicknamed the Canuck. De­spite its straight-wing configuration, it was fast and maneuverable, and on December 18, 1953, a CF 100 became the first such craft to exceed Mach 1 (the speed of sound) in a dive.

In November 1956, Canucks flew to France as NATO’s first multiseat all-weather interceptor squadron. The initial versions were originally equipped with a retractable pack of eight machine guns, but later models forsook armament in favor of wingtip rocket pods. These were actuated by a spe­cial targeting and anticollision radar housed in the bulbous nose. The CF 100s enjoyed a long and largely problem-free service life with the Canadian and Belgian air forces. The last RCAF machines were finally retired in 1981.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Reconnaissance

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 1 inch; length, 32 feet, 3 inches; height, 10 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 1,323 pounds; gross, 1,918 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 100-horsepower Mercedes-Benz liquid-cooled engine

Performance: maximum speed, 71 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,840 feet; range, 240 miles

Armament: none, but small bombs could be carried

Service dates: 1914-1915


he beautiful Taube (Dove) was one of the world’s earliest effective warplanes. Despite a seemingly frail persona, it was among the very first aircraft to conduct bombing runs.

Since its inception in 1903, aviation technology continued advancing and improving in leaps and bounds. In 1910 Austrian designer Igo Etrich de­signed what was to become the first of an entire se­ries of famous warplanes. Christened the Taube, it was a sizable monoplane whose wingtips flared back in the shape of a large bird’s wing. Because ailerons had not yet been invented, the craft was turned by a process known as wing-warping in which lateral control during flight was achieved by bending the rudder and wingtips using wires. The re­sulting craft proved pleasant to fly, and in July 1914 a Taube broke the world altitude record by reaching 21,600 feet. Knowledge of Etrich’s invention led to its exportation to Italy, Turkey, and Japan. The de­sign proved so popular that the firm Rumpler also obtained a license to manufacture it in Germany.

Despite its lovely appearance and gentle char­acteristics, the Taube was immediately pressed into military service. On November 1, 1911, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti conducted the first bombing raid in history when he tossed hand grenades out of his cockpit during the Italian-Turkish War in Libya. On August 13, 1914, Lieutenant Franz von Hiddeson flew from the Marne River and unloaded four small bombs on Paris for the first time. This was followed up by a Taube flown by Max Immelmann, a future ace, who dropped leaflets on the city demanding its immediate surrender! On the other side of the world, a Taube formed part of the German garrison defending Tsing – tao (Qingdao), China, during a siege by Japanese and British forces. In that instance Lieutenant Gunther Plutschow dropped several bombs and fought off at­tacks by Japanese-manned Nieuport and Farman fighters. Despite this auspicious combat debut, the Taube had been replaced in 1915 by better machines and relegated to training functions. Around 500 had been constructed by six different firms.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 49 feet, 2 inches; length, 39 feet, 9 inches; height, 12 feet, 3 inches Weights: empty, 10,818 pounds; gross, 14,250 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,640-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 240 miles per hour; ceiling, 16,600 feet; range, 1,150 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,600 pounds of bombs or torpedoes Service dates: 1943-1953


he Barracuda was the Royal Navy’s first mono­plane torpedo-bomber. Underpowered and somewhat ungainly in appearance, it nonetheless fulfilled a wide variety of missions.

In 1937 the Air Ministry issued Specification S.24/37 to secure a new torpedo-bomber to replace the seemingly obsolete Fairey Swordfish biplanes. The new craft was envisioned as a three-seat, all­metal monoplane with good speed and carrying ca­pacity. Fairey drew up plans for such a craft early on, but developmental problems with the new Rolls-Royce Exe engine delayed production by three years. Eventually, another low-powered sub­stitute had to be fitted, and the prototype Bar­racuda did not take flight until December 1940. It emerged as a distinctive-looking machine with shoulder wings that sported broad Youngman flaps on the trailing edge and a very high tail. For its size and weight, the craft handled exceedingly well. But when additional production delays ensued, the first Barracudas did not reach the Fleet Air Arm until the spring of 1943. Nonetheless, they represented
the first monoplane torpedo-bombers employed by that service.

The Barracuda was a welcome addition to the fleet, for it proved extremely adaptable when fitted with a succession of stronger power plants. In service they were mounted with a bewildering array of radars, weapons, and other devices. And although the Barracuda was designed as a torpedo-bomber, the lack of Axis shipping meant they were more actively deployed as dive-bombers. Their most famous action occurred on April 3, 1944, when 42 Barracudas were launched against the German battleship Tirpitz at Kaafiord, Norway. Appearing suddenly at dawn, they successfully negotiated the steep-sided fjord, scoring 15 direct hits. Subsequent strikes were also orches­trated throughout May-August of that year. The Bar­racuda received its Pacific-theater baptism of fire on April 21, 1944, when several raided Japanese-held is­lands in Sumatra. Most Barracudas were retired im­mediately after the war, but several were retained for antisubmarine duty until replaced by Grumman Avengers in 1953. Production totaled 2,602 machines.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 54 feet; length, 42 feet, 4 inches; height, 15 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 6,647 pounds; gross, 10,792 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,030-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin I liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 257 miles per hour; ceiling, 25,000 feet; range, 1,000 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; 1,000 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1937-1945


he Battle marked great aeronautical advances and was vastly superior to biplane contempo­raries. However, it was hopelessly outdated in World War II and suffered severely during the Battle of France.

The Fairey Battle evolved out of Specification P.27/32, which was issued in 1932 to replace older Hawker Harts and Hind biplane bombers with more modern aircraft. The prototype Battle debuted in 1936, the very model of aerodynamic efficiency. It was a streamlined, all-metal, low-wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage and sheeted skin. A crew of three sat in a long greenhouse canopy. Test flights revealed that it carried twice the bomb load of the older planes at 50 percent higher speeds. Ap­preciably, the Air Ministry accepted it gleefully, and the first Battle squadrons began forming in 1937. It became one of the major types produced during ex­pansion of the RAF in the late 1930s. By the advent of World War II, the RAF possessed more than 1,000 Battles in frontline service.

The Battle enjoyed a brief and rather tragic wartime career with the Advanced Air Striking Force in France. There, on September 20, 1939, a Battle tailgunner shot down the first German air­craft claimed in the West. However, this jubilation dissipated 10 days later when five Battles on a re­connaissance flight were jumped by Bf 109s and only one survived. The German invasion of France then commenced in May 1940, and casualties in­creased exponentially. On a daylight mission against the Maastricht bridges on May 10, 1940, the Battles lost 13 of 32 unescorted aircraft. This tragedy also occasioned the first Victoria Cross awarded, posthumously, to an RAF crew. An even bigger disaster occurred four days later when Ger­man fighters clawed down 32 of 63 Battles intent on hitting bridgeheads at Sedan. The surviving craft were immediately withdrawn from service and spent the rest of the war in training duties. Others performed useful service as target tugs in Canada and Australia.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 44 feet, 6 inches; length, 37 feet, 7 inches; height, 13 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 9,750 pounds; gross, 14,020 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,730-horsepower Rolls-Royce Griffon IIIB liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 316 miles per hour; ceiling, 28,000 feet; range, 1,300 miles Armament: 4 x 20mm cannons; up to 2,000 pounds of bombs or rockets Service dates: 1943-1956


he fearsome Firefly was the Royal Navy’s most capable two-seat fighter of World War II. It was the first British plane to overfly Japan and later saw service during the Korean War.

Designed to fulfill Naval Specification N.5/50, the Fairey Firefly arose from the need to replace the relatively modern yet obsolete Fulmar two-seat fighter. The prototype first flew in December 1941 and greatly resembled the earlier machine. The Firefly was a low-wing, all-metal monoplane, with folding wings for carrier storage. The pilot sat up front near the leading edge while the radio opera – tor/observer was located some distance aft. Like the earlier Barracuda, it employed broad Youngman flaps on the wings’ trailing edges, and these were mechanically recessed into the wing when not in use. The powerful Rolls-Royce Griffon 61 engine also required a large “chin” radiator that gave the craft a distinctly pugnacious profile. Tests were en­tirely successful, and the Firefly exhibited lively performance that belied its size. The first units
reached the Fleet Air Arm in the summer of 1943 and served with distinction in both the European and Pacific theaters. Its armament of four 20mm cannons was regarded as particularly hard-hitting.

Perhaps the Firefly is best remembered for a reconnaissance flight that resulted in the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz in July 1944. It also harassed Japanese aircraft and ground installations throughout the East Indies, and in July 1945 a Fire­fly became the first British aircraft to overfly Tokyo. After the war a more powerful version was intro­duced, the Mk IV, which featured a Rolls-Royce Grif­fon 74 engine without the distinctive radiator; it had a four-blade propeller and clipped wings. This ver­sion fought in Korea with the Royal Navy and Aus­tralian forces. Successive modifications kept this craft in frontline service as an antisubmarine air­craft until the appearance of the Fairey Gannet in 1956. Over the course of a 13-year career, 1,638 Fire – flys were built and operated by the navies of En­gland, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet; length, 22 feet, 10 inches; height, 10 feet Weights: empty, 2,038 pounds; gross, 3,028 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 410-horsepower Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine Performance: maximum speed, 134 miles per hour; ceiling, 19,000 feet; range, 263 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 80 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1923-1934


he homely but capable Flycatcher was among the Fleet Air Arm’s longest-serving airplanes. For nearly a decade it constituted the only fighter craft available to British carriers.

Designed to a 1922 Air Ministry specification, the Fairey Flycatcher enjoyed an illustrious career unique in the annals of naval aviation. The prototype materialized as a single-bay biplane of singularly grotesque appearance. The wood and metal fuselage was covered in fabric and terminated in a long, low rudder. Significantly, it canted upward just aft of the cockpit, giving the craft a decidedly “bent” look. The two wings were of equal length, but the upper one displayed dihedral, and both were fitted with a de – vice—the Fairey Patent Camber Gear—across the trailing edges, which was an extended flap that could be lowered for greater lift during takeoff and for braking upon the landing approach. The Fly­catcher was also the first British carrier aircraft to utilize hydraulic brakes. All told, it was an ugly but functional machine that was strong and could dive
steeply in complete safety. But what pilots remem­ber most was its superlative maneuverability. The Flycatcher was forgiving, easy to fly, and outturned anything with wings. This extraordinary aircraft joined the Fleet Air Arm in 1923 and remained its star performer for nearly 11 years.

During the 1920s, the rugged Flycatchers demonstrated their utility as carrier aircraft by launching without the benefit of catapults. They alighted so readily that the 60-foot tapered runway situated below the main carrier flight deck could be utilized to shoot out over the bow. Flycatchers per­formed similar feats while flying off platforms at­tached to the turrets of capital ships. They also helped pioneer a tactic known as “converging bomb­ing” whereby three aircraft simultaneously swooped down on a target from three different directions. The versatile Flycatcher was a common sight on car­rier decks until 1930, when it was gradually replaced by Hawker Nimrods. A total of 192 of these classic fighters were built.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 4 inches; length, 40 feet, 2 inches; height, 10 feet, 8 inches Weights: empty, 7,051 pounds; gross, 10,200 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,080-horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin VIII liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 272 miles per hour; ceiling, 27,200 feet; range, 780 miles Armament: 8 x.303-inch machine guns; 500 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1940-1945


he Fulmar was the Fleet Air Arm’s first eight – gun fighter. Although slower than land-based German adversaries, it performed useful service against the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force).

By 1938 the British Admiralty felt a pressing need for more modern fighter craft, one mounting eight machine guns like the Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires then coming into service. However, unlike the land-based fighters, Fleet Air Arm requirements necessitated inclusion of a second crew member to act as navigator. This was deemed essential for ensuring that the aircraft could safely return to a carrier at night or in bad weather. It was recognized from the onset that the basic attributes of the new machine would be range and firepower, not speed. In 1938 a Fairey deign team under Marcel Lo – belle took the existing P.3/34 light bomber prototype and converted it into a two-seat fighter. The new Ful­mar prototype first flew in 1940, exhibiting many fine qualities. It was maneuverable, easy to handle, and functioned well on the deck. But as anticipated, the
added weight of a second crew member rendered its performance somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless, the Fleet Air Arm needed an immediate replacement for its aging Blackburn Skuas and Rocs, so the craft entered production that year.

Fulmars debuted aboard the carrier HMS Ark Royal in the summer of 1940 and fought extensively during the defense of Malta. Its somewhat slow speed was considered no great disadvantage while tangling with lower-powered Italian aircraft, and its heavy armament made it lethal to enemy bombers. In an attempt to improve performance a new ver­sion, the Fulmar II, was introduced in 1943, featur­ing the more powerful Merlin 32 engine. By this time, however, Fulmars were being replaced by infi­nitely better Sea Hurricanes and Sea Spitfires. They subsequently completed additional useful work as night fighters before being phased out by 1945. De­spite their sometimes sluggish performance, Ful­mars performed well on balance and frequently under trying circumstances.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Reconnaissance; Liaison

Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 9 inches; length, 35 feet, 6 inches; height, 14 feet Weights: empty, 3,923 pounds; gross, 6,300 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 570-horsepower Napier Lion X1A liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 130 miles per hour; ceiling, 20,000 feet; range, 400 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 550 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1928-1940


he venerable Fairey IIIF was the most numerous aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm between the wars. Deployed from every British carrier, it served exten­sively around the world.

The famous Fairey III series first flew in 1917, although it was developed too late for combat in World War I. For 10 years thereafter, these capable aircraft, built in both land and seaplane configura­tions, saw widespread service with the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

In 1924 the Air Ministry announced Specifica­tion 19/24, which called for a new two-seat general purpose aircraft for the RAF and a three-seat ver­sion of the Fleet Air Arm. Consequently, Fairey took a standard IIID model and made numerous modifica­tions to the point where it was virtually a new air­plane. Like all Fairey IIIs, this craft was a conven­tional biplane with equal-span two-bay wings made of wood and fabric. The IIIF version differed by hav­ing a metal-framed fuselage, covered in fabric as be­fore but also sporting an extremely tight-fitting, streamlined cowling. The various changes greatly
enhanced its performance, and in 1927 the first Fairey IIIFs became operational.

The RAF employed Fairey IIIFs as general-pur­pose communications aircraft, and they were also capable of long, record-breaking flights. As an exam­ple, several Capetown-to-Cairo flights were per­formed throughout the early 1930s, including one headed by Lieutenant Commander A. T. Harris (who later became famous as “Bomber Harris”). In naval service, many Fairey IIIFs were fitted with twin floats and operated off of capital ships. Others, with landing gear, were flown from every carrier in the Royal Navy, with service as far afield as Hong Kong. They also supplanted the aging fleet of Avro Bisons, Blackburn Blackburns, and Blackburn Ripons sta­tioned there. Toward the end of a long service life, three Fairey IIFs were converted into radio-con­trolled target drones known as Fairey Queens. The RAF machines were phased out of service beginning in 1935, but naval versions were not declared obso­lete in 1941. A total of 622 of these efficient aircraft were constructed.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Torpedo-Bomber; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 45 feet, 6 inches; length, 35 feet, 8 inches; height, 12 feet, 4 inches

Weights: empty, 4,700 pounds; gross, 7,510 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 750-horsepower Bristol Pegasus radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 138 miles per hour; ceiling, 10,700 feet; range, 1,030 miles Armament: 2 x.303-inch machine guns; up to 1,680 pounds of bombs, rockets, or mines Service dates: 1936-1945


uring World War II, the archaic-looking “String – bag” sank more Axis tonnage than any other British aircraft. It successfully accomplished a wide variety of tasks and actually outlived the aircraft in­tended to replace it.

The legendary Swordfish evolved in response to a 1933 Air Ministry specification calling for a new torpedo/reconnaissance aircraft. Fairey Aviation en­joyed a long tradition of building excellent naval ma­chines, and its prototype TSR 2 was no exception. It was a two-bay biplane of metal structure, covered in fabric throughout. The upper wing was slightly swept back, and provisions were made for a crew of three in open cockpits. When accepted for service in 1936, the Swordfish looked somewhat out of place— even obsolete—in an age where monoplanes were the future. The new craft, however, was strong, eas­ily handled, and could accurately deliver a torpedo. By the time World War II erupted in 1939, Swordfish equipped no less than 13 Fleet Air Arm squadrons.

Nobody in aviation circles could have antici­pated what happened next, for the anachronistic

Stringbags emerged as one of the outstanding warplanes of aviation history. Commencing with action in Norwegian waters, Swordfish success­fully directed naval gunfire and even scored the first U-boat sinking credited to the Fleet Air Arm. On November 11, 1940, 20 Swordfish made a sur­prise attack on the Italian fleet anchored at Taranto Harbor, severely damaging three battle­ships and sinking a host of lesser vessels. In May 1941, these aircraft also scored a damaging hit on the German superbattleship Bismark that re­sulted in its eventual destruction. Moreover, a handful of Swordfish operating out of Malta de­stroyed an average 50,000 tons of enemy shipping throughout most of 1942. These impressive tallies continued throughout the war. A new aircraft, the Fairey Albacore, arrived in 1942 to replace the old warrior, but it proved inferior in performance and popularity. The Swordfish was finally mustered out after 1945 with a production run of 2,391 ma­chines. The Swordfish was a legendary warplane in every respect.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Heavy Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 118 feet, 1 inch; length, 70 feet, 8 inches; height, 16 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 23,122 pounds; gross, 39,242 pounds

Power plant: 4 x 860-horsepower Gnome-Rhone GR1Kbrs radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 199 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,250 feet; range, 1,240 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.5mm machine guns; 9,240 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1935-1944


he ugly Farman F 222 was the largest French bomber of the interwar period. Its service was undistinguished, but the type mounted the first Al­lied air raid against Berlin.

The design concept for the Farman family of heavy bombers originated with a 1929 requirement calling for a five-seat aircraft to replace the obsolete LeO 20s. The prototype, designated the F 220, first flew in May 1932 and had all the trappings of a French bomber of this period. It was a high-wing monoplane with wings of considerable chord and thickness, braced by large struts canting inward to­ward the fuselage. The fuselage itself was very boxy and angular, sporting pronounced nose and dorsal turrets and a smaller ventral position. The four en­gines were mounted in tandem pods below the wing in pusher/tractor configuration and secured to the fuselage by means of a pair of small winglets. The overall effect was an unattractive, if capable, craft and, being entirely constructed from metal, a signal improvement over earlier bombers. With some re­
finements it entered production as the F 221 in 1934 and was acquired in small batches. These repre­sented the first four-engine bombers produced by the West at that time.

Looks aside, the Farman F 220 series was strong, reliable, and continually acquired in a series of updated models. The most important was the F 222 of 1938, which featured a redesigned nose section, di­hedral on the outer wing sections, and retractable landing gear. However, the Farman aircraft were readily overtaken by aviation technology and ren­dered obsolete by 1939. They spent the first year of World War II dropping propaganda leaflets over Ger­many. After the Battle of France commenced in May 1940, several groups of Farman aircraft made numer­ous nighttime raids against industrial targets in Ger­many and Italy. It was a Navy F 223, the Jules Verne, that conducted the first Allied raid on Berlin that June. Many subsequently escaped to North Africa and were employed as transports by various regimes until

1944. Total production reached 45 units.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Patrol-Bomber


Dimensions: wingspan, 95 feet, 7 inches; length, 46 feet, 3 inches; height, 17 feet, 6 inches Weights: empty, 7,900 pounds; gross, 10,978 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 345-horsepower Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII liquid-cooled in-line engines Performance: maximum speed, 95 miles per hour; ceiling, 9,600 feet; range, 700 miles Armament: 4 x.303-inch machine guns; 920 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1917-1927


he F2A was a British-American hybrid design and highly effective as a patrol craft. Its career closely paralleled the Short Sunderland of a later date and firmly established the reputation of flying boats as weapons.

Commander John C. Porte of the Royal Navy was a longtime advocate of flying boats for naval ser­vice. In 1914 he ventured to the United States at the behest of aircraft builder Glenn Curtiss to work on American designs. Following the onset of World War I he returned home, firmly convinced that England could benefit by such craft. However, as commander of the Felixstowe station, he found Curtiss H.4s op­erating there unsatisfactory and set about modifying them. His subsequent F1 was found to be a better performer, so in 1917 he scaled up the new hull and fit it to the wings of a very large Curtiss H-12 Large America. The resulting hybrid was a superb aircraft for the time. It easily operated off the rough water conditions inherent in Northern Europe and, despite
its bulk, was relatively maneuverable once airborne. This new craft was christened the Felixstowe F2A, and it arrived in the spring of 1917 just as Germany’s infamous U-boat campaign was peaking.

The Felixstowe flying boat acquired a well – earned reputation as the best flying-boat design of the war. Heavily armed with bombs and machine guns, it destroyed submarines and Zeppelins on sev­eral occasions. Moreover, it could readily defend it­self against the numerous German floatplane fight­ers encountered over the North Sea. This fact was underscored on June 4, 1918, when four F2As beat off an attack by 14 Hansa-Brandenburg W.29s, shooting down six with no loss to themselves. In an attempt to improve the Felixstowe’s performance, a new version, the F3, was developed. It featured longer wings and twice the bomb load but handled poorly and was never popular. The excellent F2As, meanwhile, remained on active duty for a decade following the war.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Medium Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 70 feet, 9 inches; length, 52 feet, 9 inches; height, 15 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 14,770 pounds; gross, 22,046 pounds Power plant: 2 x 1,000-horsepower Fiat A.80 radial engines

Performance: maximum speed, 264 miles per hour; ceiling, 22,145 feet; range, 1,710 miles Armament: 4 x 7.7mm machine guns; up to 3,527 pounds of bombs Service dates: 1936-1943


he lumbering Cignona was the best-known Ital­ian bomber of the 1930s and a potent symbol of fascist rearmament. Slow and poorly armed, it suf­fered heavy losses in World War II.

During the early 1930s, the fascist regime under Benito Mussolini strove mightily to acquire a first-rate air force for military as well as propaganda purposes. In 1935 the invasion of Ethiopia high­lighted Italy’s great need for modern bombers. The following year, noted engineer Celestino Rosatelli conceived a new design that, at the time it appeared, was the most advanced in the world. The BR 20 was a low-wing, twin-engine monoplane featuring a metal framework fuselage and wings, twin rudders, and retractable undercarriage. The craft employed stressed skin throughout save for the aft fuselage, which retained a fabric covering. Given the name Cignona (Stork), it became operational in 1936, and several were dispatched to Spain to fight alongside Franco’s Nationalist forces. The BR 20s gave a good account of themselves, but glaring weaknesses in ar­mament were addressed in subsequent versions. Cu­
riously, Japan purchased 100 Cignonas to serve as an interim bomber until the Mitsubishi K 21 arrived. Their performance in China confirmed earlier defi­ciencies, and they were quickly phased out. In 1939 the BR 20M (Modificato) appeared and introduced a cleaned-up fuselage, broader wings, and heavier de­fensive armament. Several hundred were deployed by June 1940, when Italy declared war on France and Great Britain.

Despite its prior celebrity, the service record of the BR 20 in World War II was mediocre at best. Two groups were dispatched to Belgium that fall with the Corpo Aereo Italiano (the Italian air corps) and participated in latter phases of the Battle of Britain. They suffered heavy losses at the hands of Royal Air Force fighters and were withdrawn in weeks. BR 20s next fought in Greece, Malta, Yu­goslavia, and North Africa and performed well when unopposed. Unfortunately, they remained vulnera­ble in the face of determined resistance. By 1943 only a handful remained in service. A total of 602 were constructed.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter


Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 1 inch; length, 24 feet, 5 inches; height, 8 feet, 7 inches Weights: empty, 3,086 pounds; gross, 4,343 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 800-horsepower Fiat RA bis (improved) liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 205 miles per hour; ceiling, 26,245 feet; range, 485 miles Armament: 2 x 12.5mm machine guns; 2 x 7.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1935-1941


he Chirri was one of the finest biplane fighters ever designed. It proved so good that Italian avi­ators were reluctant to abandon such craft long after they had become obsolete elsewhere.

In 1932 Italian aircraft designer Celestino Rosatelli unveiled his CR 30, a defining moment in biplane evolution. As a fighter, the CR 30 was breathlessly acrobatic for its day, but Rosatelli was determined to wring out even better performance with continuing refinement. The ensuing CR 32 was a slightly smaller, cleaned-up version of the earlier craft and the most significant Italian fighter plane of the 1930s. Like its predecessor, the CR 32 was a metal-framed, fabric design with a distinctive chin – type radiator. The wings were strongly fastened by “W”-shaped Warren interplane struts and trusses throughout. Consequently, the CR 32 could literally be thrown about the sky and was capable of the most violent acrobatics. This rendered it superbly adapted as a dogfighter, a point well taken by Italian pilots. In 1936 CR 32s entered into service and by
1939 a total of 1,212 machines had been built in four versions.

The Chirri, as it became known, was instantly popular with fighter pilots around the world. The Chinese imported several and used them effectively against the Japanese in 1937. Hungary also bought them for its air force, but the most important cus­tomer was Spain. CR 32s were flown by both Span­ish and Italians during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1938), and they proved formidable adver­saries to the Russian-supplied Polikarpov I 15 bi­planes and I 16 monoplanes. However, success car­ried a price. Because of their experience with the Chirri, Italians became so enamored of biplane dog – fighters that they continued producing them long after they were obsolete. By the time Italy entered World War II in 1940, the CR 32 and CR 42 biplanes constituted nearly 70 percent of Italian fighter strength. Nevertheless, some CR 32s were success­fully employed in East Africa before assuming trainer functions in 1941.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 31 feet, 10 inches; length, 27 feet, 1 inch; height, 11 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 3,929 pounds; gross, 5,060 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 840-horsepower Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 267 miles per hour; ceiling, 33,465 feet; range, 482 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1939-1945


he superb-handling Falco (Falcon) was the last military biplane manufactured in quantity and the last to see wartime service. Despite obvious ob­solescence, it was actively employed throughout World War II.

Celestino Rosatelli’s successful CR 32 biplane fighter prompted him to extend the life of the series with a newer version. This was undertaken at a time when most nations were discarding biplanes in favor of faster monoplane aircraft. Nevertheless, in 1939 Fiat unveiled the CR 42, possibly the finest ex­pression of biplane technology ever constructed. Like the CR 32, the new craft consisted of metal frames and fabric covering. It was also the first Rosatelli design to use a radial engine, which was covered in a long chord cowling. The usual Warren struts were present, as were fixed, spatted landing gear. Unquestionably, the CR 42 continued Fiat’s tra­dition of robust fighters, being fast for a biplane, wonderfully acrobatic, and delightful to fly. The Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force) adopted it as its
last biplane fighter, and by 1940 the Falcos were a major service type. The prevailing prejudice against biplanes notwithstanding, CR 42s were also ex­ported abroad to Belgium, Hungary, and Sweden.

The CR 42 was history’s last combat biplane, and it campaigned extensively throughout World War II. They were initially engaged in the defense of Belgium and, after Italian entry into the war by 1940, flew missions against southern France. A large num­ber subsequently arrived in Belgium to participate in the Battle of Britain, where they took heavy losses and were withdrawn. In secondary theaters the Fal – cos had better success, and they fought well in the Greek campaign, over Crete, and against a host of obsolete British aircraft in East Africa.

CR 42s formed the bulk of Italian fighter strength throughout the North African campaign and, although failing as fighters, performed useful work in ground support. Only a handful survived the Italian surrender in 1943, and Germans operated them as night intruders in northern Italy until 1945.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 36 feet, 1 inch; length, 27 feet, 2 inches; height, 11 feet, 9 inches

Weights: empty, 4,442 pounds; gross, 5,511 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 840-horsepower Fiat A.74 RC.38 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 302 miles per hour; ceiling, 35,269 feet; range, 621 miles Armament: 2 x 12.7mm machine guns Service dates: 1938-1943


he much-maligned Freccia was Italy’s first all­metal monoplane fighter. Like many contempo­raries, it was underpowered, underarmed, and out­classed by competing British and German designs.

By the mid-1930s Italy’s aircraft industry felt in­creasing pressure to develop new and more modern aircraft. In 1935 Giuseppe Gabrielli of Fiat conceived that country’s first all-metal monoplane fighter, the G 50 Freccia (Arrow). It was a midsized machine with a fully enclosed canopy, retractable landing gear, and rather appealing lines. However, it was powered by a bulky radial engine because suitable in-line power plants were unavailable. Tests successfully concluded by 1937, and the following year a preproduction batch of 12 machines was deployed to fight in the Spanish Civil War. There pilots enjoyed the G 50’s outstanding maneuverability but disliked the closed canopy, which impeded all-around vision. Subsequent models fea­tured an open cockpit reminiscent of World War I-era fighters. The Freccia entered production in 1939 with the Regia Aeronautica (Italian air force), and several were also obtained by Finland. Production remained
slow, and when Italy entered World War II in June 1940, only 97 G 50s were on hand.

The decision to build the Freccia seems even more absurd in light of events that followed. As a fighting platform, it offered performance nowhere comparable to the Spitfire, Hurricane, or Me 109, being slower and underarmed. Accordingly, when the first G 50s were deployed in Belgium to fight in the Battle of Britain, most fighter pilots deliberately avoided combat against their better English counter­parts. In September 1940 the G 50 bis (improved) appeared, featuring increased fuel capacity, a re­designed tail, and glazed cockpit side panels but oth­erwise little enhancement of performance. Others were fitted with bomb racks and fulfilled ground-at­tack missions. Freccias fought throughout the Greek and North African campaigns with mediocre results and were largely discarded following the September 1943 Italian surrender. Curiously, in Finnish hands the aging fighters did valuable work against Soviet forces and remained in frontline ser­vice until 1947! A total of 774 Freccias were built.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Fighter; Light Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 29 feet, 6 inches; length, 38 feet, 3 inches; height, 14 feet, 6 inches

Weights: empty, 8,117 pounds; gross, 17,196 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 2,725-pound thrust General Electric J85 turbojet engines

Performance: maximum speed, 690 miles per hour; ceiling, 41,000 feet; range, 740 miles

Armament: 2 x 30mm cannons; up to 4,000 pounds of bombs or rockets

Service dates: 1959-1998


he G 91 was the North Atlantic Treaty Organiza­tion’s first attempt to build and deploy a stan­dard warplane for use by member nations. Small and easy to operate, it served as a frontline strike fighter for many years.

In 1954 NATO announced competition for a modern tactical strike aircraft. The new machine had to be fast, well-armed, and capable of operating off short, unprepared landing strips. Moreover, it was to be built and deployed by NATO member na­tions in an attempt to standardize equipment and ca­pabilities. In 1956 a Fiat design team headed by Giuseppe Gabrielli unveiled the prototype G 91, which bore strong resemblance to the larger F-86Ks then built under license. It was modestly sized with swept wings, tricycle gear, and a spacious bubble canopy. In flight the G 91 was light, responsive, and could carry a variety of weapons. Evaluation trials held in 1957 demonstrated that it was superior to several French contenders, so the decision was
made to adopt the craft for German and Italian forces. France angrily refused to have anything to do with the diminutive craft, but 756 G 91s were ulti­mately produced. For Germany, G 91s were the first fighters manufactured in that country since 1945. Moreover, whatever G 91s lacked as dogfighters, they more than compensated for as strike aircraft.

By 1965 the original G 91 design had grown somewhat long in the tooth, so an updated version was proposed. This was the G 91Y, or Yankee, which differed from earlier models by having two General Electric engines instead of the single Orpheus turbo­jet. The result was nearly 60 percent more thrust and very little additional weight. The G 91Y was a far more capable attack craft and could carry all the lat­est NATO ordnance, including nuclear weapons. A total of 75 were built for the Italian air force, and they were widely employed in their intended role until 1998. The German machines had been retired a decade earlier by the Dassault/Dornier Alphajet.

. Etrich Taube Austria-Hungary/Germany

Type: Liaison; Reconnaissance


Dimensions: wingspan, 46 feet, 9 inches; length, 32 feet, 5 inches; height, 9 feet, 10 inches Weights: empty, 2,500 pounds; gross, 2,910 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 240-horsepower Argus As 10C liquid-cooled in-line engine Performance: maximum speed, 109 miles per hour; ceiling, 17,060 feet; range, 205 miles Armament: 1 x 7.92mm machine gun Service dates: 1937-1945


he ungainly Storch was one of the earliest STOL (short takeoff and landing) airplanes. It served in large numbers across Europe and Africa wher­ever the German army fought.

In 1935 the German Air Ministry announced competition for an army cooperation aircraft, one specifically designed to operate from very confined areas. A prototype entered by Fieseler beat out two airplanes and a helicopter to win the contest in 1936. The Fi 156 was a high-wing, cabin monoplane with exceptionally long undercarriage to kept the nose highly elevated. It was conventionally constructed of steel tube, wood, and fabric covering. The wing surfaces were also braced and the cabin extensively glazed to afford the crew of two excellent vision. But the secret of the Storch (Stork) lay in the config­uration of its main wing. The front portion sported full-span Handley Page wing slats while the trailing edge had slotted flaps and ailerons. Fully deployed, this arrangement allowed the diminutive craft to lift off in only 200 feet. Army officials were very im­
pressed with the Fi 156 and in 1937 production com­menced. By 1945 a total of 2,834 had been built.

In service the Storch acquired a legendary repu­tation for its uncanny ability to operate where most aircraft could not. The slow-flying craft could even hover motionless while flying into a gentle headwind! This made it an ideal army cooperation craft, and hundreds were deployed with military units from the frozen fringes of the Arctic to the burning sands of North Africa. Storches were also widely employed to serve as medevac, liaison, reconnaissance, and staff transport. Moreover, Field Marshals Erwin Rommel and Albert Kesselring employed Fi 156s as personal transports throughout campaigns in North Africa and Italy. Perhaps its most notorious episode was in help­ing rescue Benito Mussolini from his mountainous prison in September 1943. Two years later, noted avia – trix Hanna Reitsch flew one of the Storch’s last mis­sions by touching down in the ruins of Berlin with General Robert Ritter von Greim, newly appointed head of the nearly defunct Luftwaffe.

. Beriev Be 12 Tchaika

Type: Antisubmarine; Air/Sea Rescue

Dimensions: wingspan, 97 feet, 5 inches; length, 99 feet; height, 22 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 47,840 pounds; gross, 68,342 pounds

Power plant: 2 x 4,190-horsepower ZMBD AI-20D turboprop engines

Performance: maximum speed, 378 miles per hour; ceiling, 37,000 feet; range, 4,660 miles

Armament: none

Service dates: 1964-


he gull-winged Be 12 is one of few amphibian air­craft still in service. At one time or another it held 44 international records for machines of its class, and it still plies the waves as an air/sea rescue craft.

Georgi M. Beriev is possibly the only designer in aviation history whose whole career centered around the production of flying boats. In 1949 he cre­ated the Be 6, a unique gull-wing design strongly rem­iniscent of the Martin PBM Mariner. These sturdy craft replaced all the antiquated flying boats of World War II and served well until 1967. A few years before, Beriev’s design bureau was authorized to develop a successor aircraft to the venerable Be 6, one utilizing the very latest turboprop technology. His Be 12 Tchaika (Gull) amphibian of 1960 was widely recog­nized as a machine of considerable ingenuity. It bore superficial resemblance to the earlier machine, but it differed in mounting the engines on top of the gull wing to give the highest possible clearance for the propellers. The hull was also greatly modified into a
single-step design that sported flared bow strakes to reduce sea spray upon takeoffs and landings. Rugged retractable landing gear was installed on the sides; as previously, twin rudders were also fitted. The Be 12 may have appeared as an ugly duckling, but it per­formed like a swan, being maneuverable, fast, and easy to operate on land, sea, or in the air. Production totals are estimated at 100 machines; they received the NATO code name MAIL.

Given their lengthy coastlines, Russia and Japan are the only nations that currently operate fly­ing boats in any number. Like the ShinMaywa US 1, the Be 12 was originally outfitted for antisubmarine warfare, sporting a large nose radome and a sonar tailboom for detection purposes. It has since been slowly phased out by more capable land-based ma­chines like the Ilyushin Il 38 and Tupolev Tu 142 in that role. However, Beriev’s brainchild still performs air/sea rescue work and is expected to do so well into the twenty-first century.